Head coach Justin Langer has endorsed veteran opener David Warner as the fulcrum around which a consistent top three needs to be built in Australia’s Test team this summer and beyond.
Warner, who will be 33 later this month, had a forgettable Ashes series to extend his poor record in in England, but few could doubt the left-hander’s career credentials; among the 13 opening batsmen with 2,000 Test runs this decade, his average of 46.17 is the highest, while only Alastair Cook has posted more centuries (23 versus 21) from the top of the order.
On home soil, Warner’s numbers are even more impressive, with his average of 60.44 from 38 Tests edging Matthew Hayden (57.88 from 46 Tests) and Bill Lawry (56.36 from 30) to be the highest of all time by an Australian opener.
It was that enviable record that prompted Tim Paine to throw his support behind Warner last month, with the Test captain citing “credits in the bank” as reason enough to persist with the left-hander, and Langer was singing from the same hymn sheet in discussing the matter on ABC Grandstand.
“He had a poor series against England no doubt – that’s a fact, he knows that,” Langer said. “But he also hasn’t lost his talent, because he was the highest run-scorer in the World Cup two weeks before the Ashes started, and he was the highest run-scorer in the IPL before that.
“The other thing about David Warner … my experience tells me you never write off champion players. He’s a champion player.
“He’s going to have to keep performing, he knows that, but I’ll be very surprised if he doesn’t do well in the next few rounds of Sheffield Shield cricket, does well in the T20 stuff (for Australia), gets his mojo and confidence back, and hopefully he’ll be raring to go for the summer.”
Warner bounced back to first-class form at first attempt in the Shield, posting a match-defining 125 against Queensland at the Gabba in difficult batting conditions.
The New South Welshman wasn’t the only opener to have a lean Ashes series, with Cameron Bancroft dropped after the second Test and his replacement Marcus Harris failing to reach 20 in the three Tests he played.
National selector Trevor Hohns has already stated there are “two or three” batting spots up for grabs for the first Test of the summer, against Pakistan in Brisbane from November 21, and an opening slot would appear to be one of those.
Langer, who together with Hayden and Ricky Ponting formed a prolific top-order for Australia’s all-conquering side of the early 2000s, said it was an area of focus for selectors coming into the new season.
“The big challenge for us is to establish a top three, because it’s so important,” he said. “We’ve chopped and changed a lot.
“Who’s going to grab those (top three) positions, and then obviously (improving our) batting through the order. It’s exciting.
“(During the Ashes) we left out Usman Khawaja. We left out Travis Head. Cameron Bancroft played a few Test matches. There’s no doubt there’s some talent but what we’re demanding is performance. That was always the foundation for great Australian cricket teams – there was so much competition to get into the team.”