MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s hard-hitting opener David Warner will bring one of the game’s biggest bats to the World Cup along with possibly a bigger chip on his shoulder as he bids for redemption in England after a year in the international wilderness.
Much more than a member of the ball-tampering trio that plunged Australian cricket into disgrace last year, former vice captain Warner was judged the instigator of the ham-fisted plot and bore the brunt of the shaming from an angry public.
Stripped of leadership roles for life, the father-of-two kept a low profile for much of his 12-month ban but was back in the spotlight at the Indian Premier League, smashing 692 runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad to top the T20 tournament’s runs list.
The IPL fireworks cemented his place in Australia’s World Cup squad as Aaron Finch’s men bid for back-to-back titles.
Warner will still have to perform in England to win back home fans, however, with many wary of the man seen as the architect of the Cape Town scandal.
Earlier this month, sections of a small Brisbane crowd jeered as he walked to the crease for an unofficial practice match against New Zealand, the 32-year-old’s first in Australian colours for more than 13 months.
Many more fans were cheering, however, as he smashed a quickfire 39 at Allan Border Field.
He can expect a frostier reception at the World Cup where local fans have struggled to warm to a confrontational player who once punched England’s Joe Root during a night out in Birmingham.
Dressing room harmony may be a bigger factor in England, and Australia coach Justin Langer has been at pains to insist Warner has been welcomed back with open arms.
The lefthander has left it to others to judge, even if the other two parties in the ball-tampering debacle have made the public aware of their feelings about Newlands.
Cameron Bancroft, who was caught with sandpaper in his trousers, threw Warner under a bus in a highly-criticised interview in December, while casting himself as the naive rookie going along with the plan.
Smith was also pilloried for using his ball-tampering shame in a marketing campaign for a telecommunications provider while simultaneously downplaying his role in the affair.
Despite being a man who rarely holds back, Warner has wisely let his bat do the talking and declined to respond to detractors that have questioned his place in the team.
He will pad up at the World Cup with the knowledge that he has rarely wanted for runs on the game’s biggest stages, and was his team’s second top scorer in the 2015 triumph on home soil.
Langer has said Warner will need to develop “humility” in the dressing room, yet few cricketers have experienced a greater humbling than the opener during his banishment.
“To endure what he and Smith and Bancroft have had to endure over 12 months, there has to be a lot of mental toughness, there has to be a lot of resilience, and having also a very positive mindset,” said Tom Moody, Warner’s coach at Sunrisers Hyderabad.
“Because you can very easily find yourself down for long periods of time.”
Editing by Nick Mulvenney