SYDNEY (AFP): Opener David Warner will be determined to show he still has what it takes when he begins the countdown to retirement at the World Test Championship final starting Wednesday.
The 36-year-old former vice-captain has been a mainstay of the Australian team since making his Test debut against New Zealand in 2011, racking up 103 caps and 8,158 runs.
But he approaches the WTC final at The Oval against India and the five-Test Ashes series from June 16 more vulnerable than ever with one century in his past 32 innings and a mediocre record in England.
His prolonged poor form had prompted intense speculation about how much longer he would carry on and over the weekend Warner set out his timetable to end his red-ball career.
The pugnacious left-hander hopes to bid farewell in front of his hometown fans in the New Year Test against Pakistan in Sydney in January.
He aims to keep playing white-ball cricket until the 2024 World Cup.
“I probably owe it to myself and my family… if I can get through this (WTC final and Ashes) and make the Pakistan series, I will definitely finish up then,” he told reporters in England.
Warner will be desperate to go out on his own terms, but with his place under threat, how much of a part he plays in his final Ashes series remains to be seen.
He made Australia’s squad heading to England but chief selector George Bailey then added to the uncertainty, saying Warner would play against India but non-committal beyond that.
Warner suffered a fractured elbow and concussion on the blockbuster tour of India in February, missing the last two Tests, which itself came on the back of an extended lean spell.
There was talk afterwards that he may have played his last Test.
Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting has suggested Warner missed an ideal opportunity to hang up the pads after hitting a double-century against South Africa at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last December in his 100th Test.
– ‘One of the greatest’ –
The form book, both recent and past, does not bode well for Warner.
In 13 Tests against the old enemy on English soil Warner averages 26.04, well below his career 45.57, and is yet to score a century.
A dismal 2019 Ashes campaign in England saw him manage just 9.50 with the bat.
To make matters worse, he will again come face-to-face with his nemesis’ Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson, two bowlers who have tormented him over the years.
Warner is also nursing a sore left elbow after being hit in the nets — the same one he fractured during Australia’s tour of India.
Despite his impending retirement from Test cricket Warner insists he will not change his mindset.
“I’ve played every game like it’s my last,” he said.
Should he fail to fire, Marcus Harris or Matt Renshaw would likely step in to partner Usman Khawaja at the top of the order.
Harris told Australian media he had seen some of the scrutiny around Warner’s position in the side, but that he had earned the right to decide when the time was right to move on.
“To be honest, I’m probably not going to be playing until Davey either isn’t playing or decides not to be playing,” Harris said.
“But my opinion with Dave is that I think he’s one of, if not the, greatest openers that Australia’s ever had.”