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David Warner won’t need to fight for his Test place in Sheffield Shield ranks before the first Test against Pakistan, effectively clearing the way for the opener to play in a farewell series at home this summer.
By being chosen, alongside Steve Smith, for the Twenty20 series against India that follows the ODI World Cup, Warner will be unavailable for all the Shield rounds played prior to the Pakistan Tests.
David Warner was in the runs again against New Zealand in Dharamshala.Credit: AP
And though the national selectors have been at pains to say they do not pick the Test team based on limited-overs matches, Warner’s prolific scoring at the current tournament has provided the clearest possible sign he is seeing the ball clearly, whatever its colour.
Warner’s former opening partner, Victoria coach Chris Rogers, told this masthead that at their level of experience, it was fair not to expect Warner or Smith to have to front up for domestic first-class matches before the first Test in familiar home conditions.
“When you’re talking about players who’ve played the amount of cricket they have, I don’t think that’s an issue any more really,” Rogers said after Victoria’s 205-run win over an abject New South Wales at the MCG.
“Time in the middle is time in the middle, they probably can go up and down the gears now a lot better than younger players can when it comes to the different formats.
“There haven’t been too many Australian summers where Davey hasn’t had some good success, if any at all. I’m pretty sure they weighed all that up and decided to go down that path, so I don’t think that’s much of an issue.”
Like Warner and Smith, Usman Khawaja has also been trusted to prepare as he thinks best in recent weeks, missing two Shield matches for Queensland in favour of time at home after a long and draining year of Test match assignments.
That trio, alongside Nathan Lyon, had featured in a promotional advert for the summer by the free-to-air broadcaster Seven that talked up the Pakistan series as the last chance to see them all play together. Warner aside, however, each of Smith, Khawaja and Lyon are eager to continue on beyond this home season.
“I can definitely say I won’t be playing that West Indies series,” Warner had said before the Ashes series. “If I get through this and I can make the Pakistan series I’ll definitely finish up. I’ve always played every game as if it’s my last. It’s my style of cricket.”
Australia’s leaders have been discussing matters of transition for some time, with Victoria home to several of the key players identified for the future.
Marcus Harris and Queensland’s Matt Renshaw have long been seen as the most obvious candidates to replace Warner. Will Pucovksi, too, is highly regarded, although he is still working at returning to consistent cricket after a series of mental health struggles. Pucovski has played two of three Shield games so far this season.
Rogers, who watched Pucovski make some of the hard first-day runs that helped set up Victoria’s defeat of the Blues, said that all those around the young batter were accepting of the fact that his progression will not always be linear.
“He’s been doing a mountain of work on his issues with a lot of support throughout his last summer where he had time off. And he went and played club cricket in England, and things were tracking really smoothly,” Rogers said.
“He came with us to Perth, he was really positive and I think everyone was really positive about it, and then it didn’t go the way he wanted. The first reaction was ‘oh no, here we go again’, but the thing with him and particularly the view from the medical support was that it’s OK to have a little setback.
Will Pucovski lets a ball pass on his Test debut against India at the SCG.Credit: AP
“It’s not going to be zero to 100, we’re going to continue to work through these issues with him, but even in the last fortnight there’s been some good stuff he’s done and I think he got through this game, really, really well. Hopefully he can back it up in our next game against Tasmania.”
NSW, meanwhile, looked to be a team struggling for collective purpose as they staggered to a second consecutive hiding. It has now been 15 Shield games since the most successful team in Australian domestic cricket won a game.
“A lot of that is down to some of us experienced players not leading the way,” captain Moises Henriques said. “I had a pretty mediocre season last year and in red ball I haven’t started well either.
“So when you’re looking at a whole team perspective from my point of view as captain, I’ve got to look internally first and go ‘what am I doing, what can I change, what can I do better’, and ask the rest of the players to do the exact same thing. If people think they’re bringing everything, then so be it, but we’ve got to keep learning as a group.”
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