Laughs off talk of poor form and believes he is close to being at his best
Warner, who has played five innings in all cricket since April with scores of 0, 2, 0, 1 and 14, revealed the training tactic – something he has previously used at home – was an attempt to overcome nets which are showing the effects of a lot of traffic over the last few months and, he believes, risk bringing bad habits into his batting.
He spoke with the Australian coaching staff on tour about making use of the different surfaces, which are available in Dubai, having received a text from batting coach Trent Woodhill who is a long-time mentor. Warner has had balls hurled at him with the ‘wanger’, or dog-thrower, at up to 145kph so that he can get his feet “dancing” ahead of facing a Sri Lanka attack that possesses considerable pace.
“One thing that should be noted is these practice wickets have been up for close to 12 weeks now, so training is quite difficult on them as well,” Warner said. “At the moment I’m training on some synthetic wickets and polished concrete to get timing and rhythm and moving my feet so that’s helping me.
“When you are practicing on low wickets that aren’t great it gets you into sticky positions in the games when you are on better wickets. You have to get your brain working again with your feet and hands to get into good positions.
“You want to feel bat on ball, but it also makes you move your feet more. We are so used to the ball coming onto the bat and when you do that and are moving, you start dancing in the game. If you are practicing bad habits at training because you aren’t able to get that volume in, you have to go back to the basics.”
Warner felt positive signs during his 14 off 15 balls against South Africa which included three crisp boundaries before he drove to backward point. He lamented his lack of conviction in the stroke that brought his downfall, saying he was too focused on seeing out what was Kagiso Rabada’s third over of his opening spell.
“In hindsight I should have played it over the top, but I pushed it to backward point,” he said. “My feet were moving, I got into great positions, but my awareness should have been to go with it. Felt I was one boundary away from having a good innings
“I actually think people talking about my form is quite funny. I laugh at the matter. I’ve played hardly any cricket. Had two games in the IPL and then warm-up games are warm-up games for a reason. The other day I got my benchmark as where I should be at with my feet.”
Warner believes the T20 game is not purely about the volume of runs a batter scores but how they fit into the broader team gameplan. “Individuals have to play their roles. It’s not necessarily a big score, it’s how you get 20, 30 or 40 and then if you get that big score it puts you in a great position. You’ve just got to make sure you aren’t soaking up too many balls.”
There is also scrutiny of Warner’s opening partner Aaron Finch, who is another to make use of the concrete wickets, after he returned from knee surgery in this tournament. Finch carved to third man for a duck against South Africa although his overall T20I returns in 2021 are far from poor with 324 runs at 32.40, albeit his strike-rate of 126.56 is his lowest for any calendar year since he made his debut.
The opening game was the first time Warner and Finch had opened in a T20I since last September against England. They were a key part of the success Australia had in the format in the 2019-2020 season, but that was followed by Warner’s injury last year against India and subsequent unavailability. “It almost seems like we’ve been in retirement and come back after the time we’ve had off,” he said.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo