David Warner leaps above fear

David Warner is an international centurion again.

The struggles to get out of bed amid fears he would never play for his country again, the critics who say he doesn’t belong, and the lasting stain on his reputation are mere details consigned to history.

For Warner is back, and so is the trademark leap. It is a celebration which carries no brand endorsement, but simple relief.

Perhaps more importantly, it is a mighty jump which brings smiles to the faces of himself, of his coach, of his fans, of Steve Smith.

Australian cricket’s damaging ball-tampering saga had seen one of the world’s most devastating batsmen exiled from the game’s biggest stage as three men bore the brunt of a punishment far heftier than the crime.

If not for his wife Candice, perhaps we would never have seen Warner back in green and gold. Perhaps we would never have seen the superstar batsman again at the peak of his powers.

But in the humble setting of the Taunton County Ground, we have seen just that.

Two-half centuries in three games were enough to suggest the flame still flickered. Now a breakthrough century (107) to steer Australia to victory over Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup has seen the weight of the world lifted off of Warner’s shoulders.

In one celebratory leap, he consigned the fears he would never play for his country again, let alone score another century, to the past.

“Yeah, definitely. There was always that [fear] going through my mind,” Warner said.

“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.

“[I] really enjoyed going out there … and I think going through those tough times and sort of regrouping with myself to put myself in the best position to come back to international cricket, I did everything I could.

“I really, really knuckled down and trained my backside off. I’m just grateful for this opportunity and, as I said before, I’m just really looking forward to what’s coming ahead of us here in the World Cup.”

In some circles he had gone from beloved gamebreaker to public enemy No. 1. The fact he was playing a role encouraged and lauded by his teammates and fans alike had fallen by the wayside.

Support for his fallen comrades Steve Smith and Cam Bancroft far outweighed that directed at Warner.

So many were quick to take the moral high ground when it came to the on-field mouthpiece of Australia’s boorish national XI’s decision to walk off the field in a Sydney club game.

He can dish it out but he can’t take it. The attack dog is weak. He shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the Australian team.

The Randwick-Petersham opener walked off the park because he was upset at comments made by Western Suburbs player Jason Hughes – the brother of the late Phillip Hughes.

Hughes allegedly said: “You’re a disgrace, you shouldn’t be playing cricket.” Warner was visibly emotional and had to remove himself from the action to regain composure. He returned to score 157.

Warner was crucified for removing himself from a potentially volatile situation at a time Australian cricket was supposed to be cleaning up its act.

His reputation as “The Bull” had him caught between a rock and a hard place. Lauded when Australia was winning Ashes urns and the World Cup, no longer was he welcome in a side supposedly drawing the fabled “line”.

At one stage Warner reined it in. His trademark celebration was soon followed by an exaggerated pose of a preacher dubbed “The Reverend”.

But the boys, they wanted their bull back. Australian quick Pat Cummins said they wanted Warner to fire up again.

As a result he became the scapegoat during Australian cricket’s ball tampering saga – but Warner was always coming back if he got the call.

“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.

“I hold a lot of credit to her. She’s a strong woman. And she got me out of bed a lot in those first sort of 12 weeks, and got me back running and training hard as I could, and prepared me for the other formats of the game I was playing and I did play.

“So it was just maintain my level of fitness and just hard work. And she really nailed that into me.”

Though as normality resumes with Warner and Smith taking back their rightful places in Australia’s top order, questions remain over the sandpaper scandal.

The press conferences the three men involved – Warner, Smith and Bancroft – held upon their returns to Australia shed light on nothing new.

Warner repeatedly stated he was there to take responsibility for his own actions, refusing to reveal if other teammates knew – and to think they didn’t would be naive.

His spirit broken, Warner was forced to fight his way back through park cricket. That he did, now desperate to bring an end to one of Australian cricket’s most farcical chapters.

“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,” Warner said.

“I didn’t need to say anything. What was said was said back in those press conferences.

“And now it’s about looking forward.”

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