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‘He’s in our plans for the immediate future’



Despite the worst stretch of his career, David Warner’s Test form is not a concern for Australia coach Andrew McDonald who believes the veteran opener can not only get among the runs against South Africa but flourish in India and England.

The 36-year-old enters Saturday’s clash with South Africa with questions over his form growing by the day while he has also been a walking headline due to his dispute with Cricket Australia over his leadership ban and his wife Candice being subjected to abuse from vulgar spectators at the Test against the West Indies in Adelaide on the weekend.

Australia are riding high after smashing the Windies in back-to-back Tests and McDonald confirmed Scott Boland would start ahead of Michael Neser at the Gabba on Saturday with Pat Cummins all but certain to play after missing the Adelaide Test with a thigh problem while he was hopeful that Josh Hazlewood can overcome his side strain for the second match at the MCG.

Their only real concern should be the fact that Warner has not scored a ton since the January 2020 SCG Test against New Zealand, averaging just 28.12 with only four half-centuries in those 15 matches. This year alone his average is a meagre 23 from nine Tests.

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Warner managed just five, 48, 21 and 28 against the West Indies when the other specialist batters plundered runs with ease. But when asked if he had any concerns about Warner’s form, McDonald replied “not at this stage”.

- NOVEMBER 30: David Warner of Australia reacts after being bowled by Jayden Seales of the West Indies during day one of the First Test match between Australia and the West Indies at Optus Stadium on November 30, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

David Warner. (Photo by Quinn Rooney – CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

“I think his appetite for the work in and around training is still there. He’s busy at the crease and you’ve seen signs that he is going well and he’s just found different ways to get out and sometimes that can happen.

“He’s eager to continue on at this stage, he hasn’t hinted anything else. We’re building towards a World Test Championship (final in June) as well and he wants to be a part of that so that’s a clear focus for us. We’ve got South Africa as a part of that and then on to India so there’s no indication of anything else at the moment.”

It is easily Warner’s worst century drought of his career, dwarfing the 11-match dry spell he endured in 2012-13.

All the off-field distractions must surely be weighing heavily on the NSW left-hander but McDonald believes he can overcome them.

“I think he’s shown in the past that he can and he can move forward pretty quick. He’s great at compartmentalising, separating the off-field from the on-field, I think most of the great champions do that very well so I see this situation as no different,” he said.

“We respect and understand David’s decision to withdraw from that appeals process. He’s moved forward, we’re moving forward as a team and we’ve got a seriously good opponent confronting us at the Gabba so our focus is firmly on that and so is David’s.”

When asked how he would know if Warner’s form was inevitably fading as he ages in his late 30s, McDonald said: “Well, if we keep picking him and he makes runs, then you know he’s back. And if we keep picking him and  he doesn’t, then he’s probably on the fade so it’s as simple as that.

“He’s in our plans for the immediate future and we’ll see what unfolds from there.”

And despite Warner’s modest record in India and a terrible output on the last Ashes tour, McDonald could see him overturning those results next year. 

Andrew McDonald head coach of Australia speaks to media during an Australia International T20 training session at University of Otago Oval on February 24, 2021 in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Andrew McDonald. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

“We’ve seen the more times that you tour certain areas of the world, the better you get at it but it’s also the knowledge that he can pass on to the younger players in and amongst that so we really value our senior players both on and off the field in terms of that education process and even when they’re out there in amongst the heat of the battle so there’s huge benefit for those players to be touring those areas.”

McDonald said it was “an arduous task” trying to manage the team’s workload in the midst of five Tests over a six-week stretch and the reality is that they will need a group of five or six fast bowlers to navigate the crowded schedule.

Boland’s impressive haul of 21 wickets in his four Tests at 10.33 per scalp could not be denied when deciding whether the Victorian 33-year-old or Neser should make way for Cummins against the Proteas.

“He’s done nothing wrong, his record is amazing at the moment,” McDonald said.

“The games keep coming. … the short turnaround, the nature of it, it’s a huge demand.”

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - DECEMBER 10: Scott Boland of Australia celebrates the wicket of Shamarh Brooks of West Indies during day three of the Second Test Match in the series between Australia and the West Indies at Adelaide Oval on December 10, 2022 in Adelaide, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

He is not concerned that Hazlewood is starting to show signs of wear and tear as he nears his 32nd birthday next month, missing Tests during the Ashes and now this summer with a similar injury.

“It’s just one of those things that fast bowlers unfortunately get injured. I wouldn’t read too much into the timing of both of those at the start of the summer, it’s just unfortunate and sometimes it’s not exact as to how injuries come about.”

All-rounder Cameron Green looked rusty in Adelaide after watching the top order score more than 1000 runs over the course of three innings before he finally got a bat, scoring just nine and five against the depleted Windies attack.

“We’ve seen that he’s a fast learner. I expect every challenge that is put in front of him that he will work his way through with the support of the coaching staff and other players,” McDonald said.

“That’s the beauty of this game – no situations are ever the same in your career so you keep getting thrown up different problems to solve and he’s a great problem solver.”

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