LONDON: That leap to celebrate an international hundred is back. That feeling David Warner at times felt he would never be able to enjoy again. And it is that fear that kept Warner going through the 14 months of international exile, as a result of his role in the Newlands ball-tampering controversy. If that fear pushed him to be back to the best batsman he could be, his wife Candice’s support helped him come out of the initial trauma, admitted a relieved Warner afterwards.
“Yeah, definitely,” Warner said when asked if he ever feared he might never get a chance to score a century for Australia again. “There was always that going through my mind. And I think that’s what drove me to keep being as fit as I can, keep scoring as many runs as I can in the Twenty20 tournaments that I was playing in.”
Before he could get back to scoring those T20 runs, he struggled to get out of the bed even. That’s when Candice helped him. “The thing that kept me going was my wife and my kids,” Warner said. “Got great support at home, my family. And my wife is just, she’s just my rock. She’s unbelievable. She’s determined, disciplined, selfless.
“And I hold a lot of credit to her. She’s a strong woman. And she got me out of bed a lot in those sort of first 12 weeks and got me back running and training hard as I could, and prepared for the other formats of the game I was playing. So it was just to maintain my level of fitness and just hard work. And she really nailed that into me.”
There was no point moping around. Warner had to enjoy the process of getting back. There was no other option, but he found it genuinely enjoyable. “Really enjoyed going out there. And we used Regulation balls [Kookaburra Regulation, which has a more pronounced seam than Kookaburra Turf, which is used in the first half of the Shield season] back in Sydney [grade cricket]. And that was a challenge in itself to get used to that. The different obscure fields that were being set because the wickets are a tad slower. I really enjoyed all that. It was really, really hard work.
Warner is pumped, and finally, he has had a match in England where he was not booed. He has a message: the booing might only make him and Steven Smith more determined. “The boos, we don’t really hear that when we’re out there,” Warner said. “At the end of the day, we’re out there to do a job. For me, it’s just trying to score runs and have a lot of energy in the field. And, look, it’s water off a duck’s back. You get it all the time. I’ve heard it my whole career. Actually, it eggs us on a lot and makes us knuckle down and try to score more runs if anything.”
There is a difference between Smith and Warner, though. Warner has largely been seen as the corrupting influence. Warner has not had the amount of sympathy that has come Smith’s way. Nor has he done any interviews to seek any.
“I was just focused ahead,” Warner said. “That was my own thing. I was just focusing on playing the next game that I was playing in, training as hard as I could. I didn’t need to say anything. What was said back in those press conferences. And now it’s about looking forward.”
And to be in the here and now is to enjoy the soreness from training hard to be fit enough to be part of the current Australia set-up. “Coming back, that soreness that you normally get, it was it put a smile on my face,” Warner said. “I had a little bit of a strain on my glute. I think that was just purely based on getting back into it and sort of getting back in the mojo of things. And, look, it was just great to be back and part of the team.”
More smiles will be on his face when partners of the players join the team in London on Thursday. The last time Warner had Candice over when playing for Australia was probably the most desperate time of his career. He was under the pump, she was mocked disgustingly by the crowds, and it all led to a bitter climax in Newlands. Warner is in a much better place, Australia are in a much better place, and he is looking forward to being with his family and enjoying the tour. That could hardly be said in South Africa.