David Warner has always been an aggressive cricketer. His instincts have always taught him to go towards the ball rather than letting it come to him. On Thursday, he started in that typical Warner manner. To the first ball he faced, he took a guard with both his feet positioned out the crease. However, by the time the 10th over was bowled, Warner had curbed his natural impulse, by parking himself back in the crease. He stationed himself behind the crease for the majority of his masterful 147-ball 166.
One had already noticed that Warner is no longer the brash, foul-mouthed provocateur on the field after serving a one-year ban, and it is the change in his batting style that deserves the highest praise. Warner is now the leading run scorer at the World Cup with 447 runs at an average of 87.3. He is taking longer than ever to score reach triple figures, but at the same time, he has learned to achieve the milestone on a more consistent basis.
Warner is still instilling fear into the opposition but in a different manner. He has transformed himself from a Matraville Mauler into a Coogee Caresser. This is David Warner version 2. This is the Warner that goes against his usual nature. He waits for the ball to come to him, he then deflects it in areas that were alien to him for the bulk of his career. Above all, he has learned to play a game that enabled him to be a risk-free batsman. The results are impressive and while it might look like he is scratchy at the crease, his prolong innings along with a different approach are proving to be fruitful for Australia.
Teams have also learned to bowl the ideal line and length to Warner. No longer does he get balls to cut or pull as he arrives at the crease. Opposition tucks him up by bowling a leg-stump line and offering him minimal width. To overcome the tactics, Warner has learned to put his ego aside and play the ball on its merit. Eliminating risks might go against Warner's will, but it has enabled Australia to get off to steady starts in five of their six matches.
In the eighth over against Bangladesh, he dropped his hands and let a short ball from Mustafizur Rahman pass through to the keeper. Commentating on air, Michael Clarke felt that Warner was not at his best because he was not reading the length, otherwise he would have dispatched the bouncer. Instead, Warner was just adjusting to the pace of the pitch. Ten balls later, the half-tracker from Mustafizur had disappeared into the stands.
Warner was adapting to the match scenario. Side-on angle showed how Warner had changed his position at the crease as his innings progress. Against the new ball, he stood outside the crease, largely to eliminate the leg before wicket. After the first powerplay, he had shifted deeper in his crease. He had realised the pace of the pitch was slow and the secret of succeeding on the deck was to let the ball come on to the bat. It was like the deeper he went in his crease, the longer he wanted to bat. It is this new avatar that has led him to become the leading run-scorer at the World Cup thus far.
After the Pakistan match, Warner had stated that he was disappointed after getting dismissed in the 39th over. "I felt I left a lot of runs out there," he told the local broadcaster. On Thursday, he had learned from his mistake and batted deeper.
It took Warner 132 balls to boost his strike-rate in excess of 100. In years gone by, he would start his innings at run-a-ball and then better it. He would sprint out the blocks and try to maintain that momentum; now he paces his innings and accelerates at the right point. Against Bangladesh, he shifted gears after bringing up his ton. He had altered back into basher. Those old values instilled in him were never going to dissolve as he hammered 65 from the last 35 balls he faced.
"You have to respect the new ball. We have to give credit to the bowlers they have done well against us in patches. Once we get through that 10 overs, it is about knocking it around and targeting six or eight an over," he explained at the post-match press conference.
There might be critics who believe this fresh Warner is shy of himself, but the reality is that he is churning out the runs on a more consistent basis and the stability he offers at the top is allowing the likes of Glenn Maxwell to flourish down the order. The World Cup is experiencing the toned-down version of Warner, and to be fair, the opposition is finding it difficult to dismantle Warner 2.0.