Michael Hussey: Warner has found the blueprint
Top level cricket is tough.
Firstly, the competition is fierce, competing against the best players in the world and trying to perform on a consistent basis, trying to gain respect from your peers and the public. Next, there is the constant travel and training spending months at a time on the road away from friends and family and a ‘normal’ life. There is also so much scrutiny on the athletes by the public and media where everyone has an opinion about how a player or a team is going.
It is tough to disregard all the outside distractions and focus solely on the task at hand.
The Australian bowlers were challenged after a poor showing in their first match against New Zealand. They were lambasted in the media, there were a few strong words by captain Steve Smith and no doubt, Darren Lehman would have given an honest assessment of their performance as a bowling unit.
"The bowling unit showed that they do have plenty of character with a great display against Bangladesh"
It’s at times like this that you find out about a person’s character. Can they come back in the face of adversity and put in a good performance or will the negativity and doubt take hold and affect a player’s mental state of mind?
The bowling unit showed that they do have plenty of character with a great display against Bangladesh at The Oval overnight. The bowlers were so disciplined with line and length, keeping the batsmen under enormous pressure for long periods picking up regular wickets along the way.
Other than Tamin Iqbal, who played a brilliant innings and deserved a second century of the tournament, all the Bangladesh batsmen struggled for fluency due to the consistent and disciplined effort of the Australian attack.
Teams often analyse when things are going poorly. There are team meetings and plenty of self- reflection to learn the lessons of previous failings, which is important, but it is more important to analyse the great performances. Knowing what your best performance looks and feels like gives you a better chance of being able to repeat it on a regular basis.
David Warner has certainly learnt his lessons of previous failings and now knows what his best one-day cricket looks and feels like. He became the fastest Australian to 4,000 ODI runs, which is amazing considering that two years ago ODI cricket was considered his worst form of the game. He has now found the blueprint that works for him and has been applying it consistently over the past 18 months.
Earlier in his career, Warner could be impetuous and impatient in ODI cricket, which affected his consistency. As an opener, there is more time than you think and Warner now constructs his innings carefully, paying attention to the early stages, giving himself time and a chance to get ‘set’ before looking to accelerate.
Australian batsmen have been criticised in the past about how they have played in English conditions. The pitches are slower than in Australia and batsmen need to play the ball as late as possible, unlike in Australia where players can go harder at the ball as the pitches are generally harder and faster.
Warner initially struggled to make the adjustments to playing in England but again is learning from previous failings. It was notable in the Ashes series of 2015 in England how Warner changed his tactics during the series. It stood out when Australia was bundled out for just 60 in the first innings at Trent Bridge how hard the Australia batsmen were going at the ball in trying to be positive, whereas Joe Root played the ball so late with great effect during the match. In the last Test of that series at The Oval, Warner and Chris Rogers literally blunted the new ball and waited patiently for their time to attack and both played significant innings to help Australia win the Test match.
"it will take every player to show their true character and skill and execute on game day for Australia to beat England"
Warner now understands that in England, it is prudent to be circumspect early, and wait patientlyfor the appropriate time before unleashing his full array of strokes. He played exactly to his blueprint again last night, playing positively but within himself early. Unfortunately the rain came and ended the match once again.
The Australia team will now travel back to Birmingham, analyse what its best looks and feels like. It will also try to disregard all the outside distractions, prepare well and then it will take every player to show their true character and skill and execute on game day for Australia to beat England and advance to the semi-final stage of the tournament.
It will be tough, top level cricket is but victory will make it all worthwhile.