The true greats are pretty much irreplaceable. It’s safe to say Australia aren’t going to find a pantomime villain like David Warner again any time soon. This puts them in a very difficult situation given that quite a lot of their current players are really quite agreeable people. How can the Australia Test team possibly retain its hard-earned identity as just the absolute worst?
It’s Pat Cummins who’s most at fault here, we reckon. The man has perspective and reasonable-good-eggness oozing from every pore. And the rest of them ain’t much better.
Mitchell Starc seems a decent sort. Travis Head ploughs his own furrow. It was hard not to feel warmth for big, loveable puppy Cameron Green even before he revealed that he has chronic kidney disease.
Usman Khawaja? Man, we’d go so far as to say we actively like Usman Khawaja.
Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne are trying to do their bit, but only in an oblivious, self-involved, monomaniacal sort of way. We’re not convinced Smith properly understands anything that doesn’t involve a cricket bat, let alone his somewhat contrived pantomime villainy.
That pretty much leaves us with Nathan Lyon, but his best work was done in partnership with Warner, so where does that leave us?
The worst thing is there’s every chance the opener will be replaced by someone like Matt Renshaw, which is honestly like replacing Emperor Palpatine with Chief Chirpa.
We’re in seriously grave danger of not properly hating Australia here.
David Warner, small of stature yet a veritable colossus in the field of knobheadery
Say what you like about David Warner. He may or may not actually be a prick, but he can certainly pass as one.
That’s valuable, because sport isn’t all about winning… it’s also about who you beat.
Let’s start with the obvious: the ball-scuffery, which is a bit of a weird one because we do actually have positive things to say about him here.
We probably all agree that premeditated cheating ain’t a good look for a sportsperson, but Warner’s response to being caught and punished was hard to fault, even if there was a certain amount of pragmatic self-preservation underpinning his behaviour.
Warner didn’t rewrite his role in the incident. He didn’t do a self-important Vodafone advert about it. He also didn’t pen a 20,000-word open letter to himself. He didn’t do anything really. He just sort of kept his head down while conspicuously declining the opportunity to implicate any of the fast bowlers who would have needed to exploit the ball’s condition for there to have been any point sandpapering it in the first place.
More annoying to us was some of the other on-field stuff with the run out of AB de Villiers earlier that series pretty much the definitive example. This was where Warner truly shone: swearing at people and going absolutely off his nut about seemingly innocuous stuff.
That said, the truth is Warner was never quite the all-out villain many outside Australia saw him as. We felt he was a rational enough bloke blighted by minimal control of his inner chimp. We don’t give him a pass for that by any means, but it tempered our view of some of his behaviour. If anything, we’d criticise how he was perceived and managed. Coaches, team-mates and pundits would routinely draw some illogical link between his verbal aggression and his attacking batting, as if you can never have one without the other.
But he did enough, didn’t he? We didn’t truly hate him, but we could pare away nuance and convince ourself we did when we needed to. He was enough of a bell-end that we felt extra happy when Stuart Broad wore him down to a nub in 2019.
The question now is whether there is anyone who can step in and replace that?
No, there isn’t. Of course there isn’t. Warner was an Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham kind of villain. Funny, ridiculous and cartoonish, but crucially also relentlessly committed to his role.
There is no good option. With his departure, Australia will tragically and unavoidably become more likeable.
Personally, we’d give Bancroft the gig, purely on the basis of that stupid letter.