David Warner seems to be criticised more than most cricket players. Perhaps it is because he played his first international match before he played a first class match. Perhaps it is because he said a lot of silly things on Twitter. Perhaps it is because he tried to punch Joe Root. Perhaps it is because of his 12 month suspension as a result of ‘sandpapergate’.
In the ODI World Cup, Warner was accused of being out of form due to his slower than normal strike rate, yet he went on to get four man of the match awards in the 10-match series. He was considered out of form despite being the second-highest run scorer in the tournament behind only Rohit Sharma. In the end he was probably only behind Sharma, Shakib al Hasan and Mitchell Starc as the fourth best player in the tournament, despite Kane Williamson winning the award ahead of all of them – for captaincy.
In the Ashes Test series, Warner failed quite badly, but we focused on that, rather than the failures of his opening partners Cameron Bancroft and Marcus Harris, and the failures of England’s openers too. Rather than say that it was difficult for openers on both sides, we said that Warner was out of form, or, perhaps, out of red ball form.
When we had the T20I series in Australia, Warner got man of the match for two games in a row, so we said that he was a white ball player only.
Now having scored 154 in the first test and 335 not out, after a declaration, there still is no applause. Why not? Oh, because this was in Australia, so he is a “home track bully” or “htb” as some fans like to say.
The notion of a “home track bully” comes primarily from Indian cricket fans, who have the biggest home ground advantage of any team in the world, and they have many players, both batsmen and bowlers, who are amongst the best in the world at home but decidedly ordinary away, such as Ravi Ashwin for one, and so they like to pretend that other players from other countries, who don’t have anywhere near the same level of home ground advantage, secretly do.
In other words, David Warner is being singled out to excuse pitch doctoring by Indian curators, something that is supposed to be against cricket’s laws, that no other country is doing, but that they continuously do and pretend that everyone else is too, even though none of them actually do it.
Sure, Pakistan are on a bit of a low, and Australia are on a bit of a high, and Australia are at home, so these conditions aren’t quite as tough as Steve Smith faced in England, but he still had to score the runs.
He probably should have been awarded the man of the match award in the first test and looks likely to get the man of the match award in the second, and is right now getting man of the match awards every third match he plays, in all 3 international formats, as this will be his seventh in 21 international matches since his return. Who else is doing that well that consistently?
Perhaps it is time that we stop the criticism and give credit where credit is due. But for Paine’s declaration, David Warner may well have broken the Australian record for highest test score of 380 by Matthew Hayden, or perhaps even the world record of 400 by Brian Lara. Perhaps then we might have avoided accusing him of being a home track bully or whatever other criticism we want to lay down at him. Or perhaps we’d have simply found some other way to criticise him.