|ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup: England v Australia|
|Venue: Edgbaston Date: 11 July Start: 10:30 BST|
|Coverage: Watch in-play clips & highlights on the BBC Sport website & app; live Test Match Special radio and text commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live sports extra & BBC Sport website|
On the evidence of what we have seen so far, David Warner is a much more threatening prospect than the player that was given a year-long ban for ball-tampering.
He is hungrier, keen to atone and succeed.
That’s the strange thing about batting and, as has been seen in this country before with the likes of Geoffrey Boycott and Ken Barrington, men who are utterly selfish can be a huge part of the success of a team.
It is the amalgam of individuality and corporate responsibility.
Even then, I still believe there is some discomfort between Warner and his Australia team-mates. That will take some time to iron out.
The best way for Warner to be fully accepted by his peers will be to do what he is doing – score runs.
The same goes for the way he is viewed by the Australian public. Forgiveness will be related to success. If his form goes, there will be a clamour to get rid of him.
It was the Australian public who showed how much respect they still hold for the game by the reaction to the initial scandal in South Africa in the early part of 2018.
In truth, the furore, led by then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, was a little overboard. It would have been interesting if Warner had tried to challenge the severity of his one-year ban, because it may not have stood up in court.
Instead, after Steve Smith accepted his punishment, Warner took his and the entirety of Australian cricket went through a cathartic experience.
Even now there are some that believe Warner should never have played for Australia again, because they see him as the instigator of the whole affair. That may be unfair.
Indeed, even though Warner did return to international cricket at the earliest possible opportunity, I don’t believe that a comeback was ever nailed on.
And, when he did reappear, I’m sure that someone had a quiet word in the ear to tell him that if he ever stepped out of line again, he would be gone for good.
To get to a position where he could play for Australia again, Warner drew strength from the beautiful family that he has and also a man called James Erskine, who he took on as an agent, advisor and mentor.
It was Erskine who made it clear to Warner that he should keep his mouth shut and let his bat do the talking. No interviews to 60 Minutes or Women’s Weekly, no sledging or insulting opponents. Just make runs.
He has taken it on board and that is to his credit. Can it continue? We’re all keen to find out because Warner is, at heart, a street fighter and a renegade. It comes down to leopards changing their spots.
You could perhaps point to the way he has batted during this World Cup, more circumspectly than his previous incarnation as international cricketer, to make 638 runs, second only to India’s Rohit Sharma.
It’s been necessary because of both the conditions and the holes in the Australia batting line-up.
They may yet win a fifth World Cup in six attempts, but they are not a great team. They have good players, but the performances of the likes of Warner are papering over some cracks.
Will Warner continue to weigh in with that amount of runs? If he does, as he gets to the back end of his career, people will say ‘he might not always have been the best bloke, but boy he could bat’.
In many ways, Warner is well suited to making this comeback, and all the hostility that will go with it both in the World Cup semi-final against England at Edgbaston, and the Ashes series that follows.
He has copped it before, not least over the events in Birmingham in 2013, when he was involved in altercation with Joe Root in a bar.
The opener is more hard-nosed than Smith, who may be more vulnerable as both a man and a batsman.
Again, it will be about runs, and those who saw Smith bat in the last Ashes would have been thinking ‘how do you get his bloke out?’
It will come down to his frame of mind. Will he be able to recapture the performances that made him the best batsman in the world? There are signs that may be a tough proposition.
If that is encouraging for England, they should be concerned over a Warner with the bit between his teeth.
Not just now, in this World Cup semi-final, but for the Ashes that follow. They will need to get the Dukes ball talking and their best bowlers firing.
If he gets away from them, look out. Seriously, if the pitches are good, it could be a Bradman-esque summer for David Warner.
Article courtesy of BBC Sport