Warner rates Dhaka century his best innings
Mindset first, technique second. As a guiding principle, it is integral to understanding David Warner as he is today, and the secret of his Dhaka century. The working thesis is simple: if he bats with a clear mind, he sets the preconditions to be his best self at the crease. And that has always been the one that looks first to score.
“I always talk about my defence taking care of itself if I am having that attacking approach,” Warner explained after the innings. “When things aren’t going my way, I’ve thought of defending rather than trying to set myself a platform looking to score. It is about trusting my game, and that is having that attacking approach with defence at the back of my mind.
“I probably tinkered with it a lot over the last couple of years in these conditions and just didn’t nail the basics of what I do best – attacking and then defending.”
One man in whom Warner keeps much faith is his long-term batting coach Trent Woodhill. Speaking to ESPNcricinfo, Woodhill elaborated on the mechanics of attack-first. “What that means to David and I is being in a position of power to be able to react to the latest possible cue from bowler, ball or pitch, which gives him the best chance to score off the ball,” he said. “Just as importantly, a chance to defend or let go with less risk. Like the set position in a race. To me, David looked to be aggressive without over-committing or being overly concerned how he looked. He was 100% committed to every ball.”
The result was an innings Warner dubs the finest of his career. It is something he shares with Adam Gilchrist, who earlier this year cited a match-turning 144 he made against Bangladesh in Fatullah in 2006 as the knock he looks back on most fondly.
It was doubly meaningful, given the added scrutiny on the vice-captain, entering the series without a century in the subcontinent and an average of 30 in Asia. “In a fourth innings in the subcontinent,” Warner said, “I proved to myself that I am capable of doing it on turning tracks as well with that positive mindset and energy in the legs. That’s the key to getting down the wicket, lunging forward and launching back and not getting caught in between.”
That affliction, getting caught in between, has been Warner’s perennial downfall in this part of the world, and continued when he was cornered by Mehedi Hasan the first time around here. “Always in these conditions, especially for me with the new ball, I get caught on the crease,” he said with typical candour. “It’s basically about decision-making, whether to commit forward or back. That in between length – if you get out lbw or bowled – that is your own fault and there is no excuse.”
This was ongoing a lot last August when he was toyed with by Rangana Herath and co. Then, he thought his nightmare may never end. “That probably hit me in Sri Lanka,” he recalled. “I just felt sometimes there, I was just getting beaten all the time on the inside.”
It’s no coincidence that returning home from that tour, Warner took some dedicated steps to start clearing his mind of the negative energy that too often pervaded his thinking, as a batsman and a bloke. Meditation off the field and mantras when batting are now all part of the package to channel the best and discard the rest.
Drawing on his own journey, he can empathise better than anyone with team-mates leaving Dhaka low on confidence, of which there are more than a few after the twin-collapses. “There are going to be times when it is going to be tough in these conditions in this environment,” he said. “I’ve been there before, it is not a great place to tour if you are not doing well, so you need the support of your friends and your team-mates. And more importantly, your family.”
Not least Usman Khawaja, who he has been playing alongside for half his life. “It is almost like he has to go back to working harder on the basic stuff because he has been out of that period for a long time,” Warner said, noting Khawaja’s long break from the crease over the winter.
Then, observing more broadly on the importance of successive meaningful partnerships when times are tough, he said: “You have got to dig deep in these conditions. You see the momentum swings massively. You let the opposition in, so you can never settle.”
Woodhill has a more technical perspective. “Let’s take [Matt] Renshaw,” he says of his second innings lbw dismissal. “He chose to defend from the hand. Moved forward, a long way, early down the wrong line and met the ball with his pad rather than bat. If he has an aggressive approach to ensuring he hits the ball – not a carefree or high-risk approach but a high tempo – and he’s looking to score, he wouldn’t have committed as far forward, more than likely wouldn’t commit to the wrong line and the ball would strike bat, not pad.”
In other words, they could do with being a bit more like Warner. With 19 centuries now in 65 Tests (as a modern reference point, it took Michael Clarke 80 starts to reach that mark) there are worse starting points. “You should never go away from what you know best,” Warner concludes. “It takes time to get used to these conditions, and hopefully, my time has come now. That took probably longer than I expected, but I’ve got to keep taking the same mindset.”
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.