David Warner’s tour of India so far has been one he would rather forget. After three Test matches, Warner has scored 131 runs at a mediocre average of 21.83. In six innings, the dashing Australian opener is yet to score a half-century, with a top score of only 38.
Before the Border-Gavaskar Series began, Warner, along with captain Steve Smith, were touted as Australia’s two most important batsmen and the biggest threats to India’s bowlers, who had been dominant at home all season. While Smith has lived up to expectations to be the leading run-scorer in the series and has made two brilliant centuries, Warner has failed to live up to his billing.
The powerful left-hander has been dismissed by Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin three times and left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja twice, and has generally looked at sea against the turning ball. On pitches that have offered assistance to the spinners Warner’s defence, as well as his game plan, has been found wanting. He hasn’t trusted his defence, nor has he had the confidence to back his natural attacking instincts and take the spinners on. The game situation also hasn’t allowed Warner to take the attack to Ashwin and Jadeja on turning decks and the Indians have done well to restrict his run scoring, particularly boundaries.
On spinning pitches, and seaming pitches for that matter, a batsman has to be able to play the ball late as well as play the line rather than following the ball with his hands. Warner, whose modus operandi is attack, plays with very hard hands as he wants to feel the bat on ball early in his innings and dominate the bowling. In Australia, where most of the pitches have little lateral movement but have pace and bounce the batsman can trust, Warner gets away with throwing his hands at the ball and is able to hit through the line with minimal footwork without too much fear of being dismissed.
In India, Warner’s combination of hard hands and unsure footwork has left him playing a long way in front of his body, leaving a gap between bat and pad which has allowed Ashwin and Jadeja to attack his stumps and pin him in the crease. India have also managed to stifle Warner’s strokeplay and limit his boundary scoring opportunities, which has made him more anxious to score.
It’s clear that Australia’s usually dominant opening batsman is struggling in this series, but his poor run of form actually alludes to a greater problem against the moving ball. The 30-year-old’s career record is very impressive, particularly for an opening batsman who made his name in limited-overs cricket before adapting to the longer form of the game, but his stats away from home are underwhelming.
From 63 Test matches, Warner has made 5392 runs at the impressive average of 47.71 with 18 hundreds. A record any opener would be proud of. However, a closer look at Warner’s record shows the big-hitting New South Welshman has scored 14 of his Test hundreds at home in Australia, where the wickets are easier to bat on. Three of his four centuries away from home have come in South Africa, where conditions are similar to Australia in terms of the pace and bounce at most grounds, although there is more seam movement on offer.
Warner’s average at home is a very impressive 59.21, a testament to his dominance against the new ball. But in away games (excluding UAE which is a neutral venue) his average drops to 35.11, a much less flattering figure for a man of his immense talent and ball-striking ability.
In countries where the ball is known to spin — India and Sri Lanka — Warner averages just 23.28 and 27.16 respectively without a Test century. In the swinging and seamer-friendly confines of New Zealand, Warner’s numbers again don’t make for great reading with an average of 13. Warner has fared slightly better in England where he averages 37.06 but this is still more than 10 runs below his career average and more than 20 below his average at home. He is also without a Test century in England.
Outside of Australia and South Africa the only country where Warner has scored a Test hundred is the UAE, against Pakistan. Once again the wickets in the UAE offer very little assistance to bowlers of any creed.
Despite Warner’s record overseas and his current struggles, India will still be wary of Australia’s power-packed opening batsman knowing he can change a game in one session of madness.
Australia will be pleased they have managed to win a Test and be one all in the series heading into the decider in Dharamsala without arguably their second best batsman firing a shot as yet.
The explosive Australian will no doubt be aware he hasn’t done his natural talent justice when playing abroad and will be determined to rectify his poor run, especially against spin. If he can discover the secret to success in the subcontinent before the last Test, it will go a long way towards helping Australia retain the Border-Gavasker Trophy.