Leaner, in love; Warner ready and raring for Ashes
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — David Warner is lean, he’s in love, and he’s ready to score runs against England.
It’s only been five months since the last Ashes series started in England, when Warner was on the outer from the Australian team after punching a rival player in a bar-room incident, yet the opening batsman’s preparations couldn’t be any more different.
While the Australian limited-overs squad was touring India recently, Warner was scoring centuries in domestic cricket for New South Wales, spending time with his family, his new girlfriend — surf lifesaving ‘Ironwoman’ Candice Falzon — his batting coach and a sports psychologist who he attributed with guiding him back onto the right path.
On Tuesday, his position in Australia’s 12-man squad for the first test starting Nov. 21 was confirmed, and he spent the day at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane talking about how he made his way back into the good books of selectors.
“The last six to 12 months hasn’t been ideal for myself, but the last six to eight weeks have been fantastic, scoring runs for New South Wales and putting my hand up for selection,” he said. “And now I’m here, I’m ready to go.”
The 27-year-old opener missed the first two Ashes tests in England and was sent to South Africa to play for the second-string team after a run of off-field problems, including a Twitter rant against two veteran journalists and the incident with then-England opener Joe Root.
Warner didn’t return to top form and was later dropped from the national ODI squad, leaving him plenty of time to think about life inside and outside of cricket.
He has lost weight — a result of an improved diet and more exercise — and has had encouragement from family, some wise counsel from Cricket Australia’s sports psychologist Michael Lloyd and one other thing.
“I put it down to love, mate,” he said, only half joking despite the chuckle. “I needed a change of approach with cricket, so I took the other path and went for lifestyle change. Then there’s little things I’ve worked on with my batting coach — things are working at the moment.
“I’ve found a balance at the moment and I’m really happy.”
Warner has scored four centuries in the last month for New South Wales, and chief selector John Inverarity described a first-class hundred at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as “a fine knock.”
Warner has three centuries and eight half centuries from 22 tests, including an unbeaten 123 in his second test in 2011 and 180 against India in January 2012. But he hasn’t reached triple figures in a test since his 119 against South Africa last November, and knows he is overdue to score a hundred after missing out in consecutive series against Sri Lanka, India and England.
Australia captain Michael Clarke said Warner was picked on form, and deserved his opportunity against an England team which came to Australia seeking a fourth consecutive Ashes series win — something it hasn’t achieved in more than a century.
“His attitude has been outstanding on and off the field,” Clarke said. “Once we welcomed him back into the group after the incident in the UK, he’s been great around the team. He’s gone out of his way to try to earn the respect back from his teammates and he’s certainly done that. It’s great to see him back in the team.”
Warner said he started working with psychologist Lloyd “When I was going through the rough patch and couldn’t score a run.”
“I had to call him in. He’s been fantastic for me,” Warner said. “He’s calmed me down a little bit in the way that I process things.”
And that doesn’t just apply to technical issues with the bat. Warner says he doesn’t take negative thoughts onto the field with him, and actually enjoys the kind of banter and taunts that the traveling England fans, collectively known as the Barmy Army, chant at him.
He was at the center of a few original songs in England, some relating to his pre-series incident with Root, the young England batsman who went on to score a century in the first test. Warner knows that he and Root will be linked in plenty of stories ahead of the return series, and says it doesn’t bother him.
“That’s probably 10 seconds of my life I’d like to take back,” he said. “From there, we’ve moved on. If both our names get dragged along because of that incident, then again, everyone can keep talking about it but we’re well past it.
“We’re about playing for our country and getting ready to get out there and talk them on.”
Warner said the 10 weeks had home after more than 18 months of solid traveling for cricket had been “fantastic,” helping him get over the disappointment of being dropped from the ODI team.
“In the back of your mind, you always want to play for Australia every time you get the opportunity, and it was disappointing that my form let me down,” he said. “But I had the opportunity to stay at home with my family and Candice and do things at home that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do. You lose sight of that when you’re away.
“I’m just glad to be back in form, back with the Aussie boys.”