Warner returns to his T20 roots for farewell tour

David Warner's first stint as a franchise cricketer was further from glamorous than Aotearoa is from Artarmon

Appetite's there for more trans-Tasman tours: Warner

There's a certain symmetry that brings David Warner – in his final bilateral campaign wearing Australian colours before beginning his next career phase as a globetrotting T20 freelancer – back to the country where his journey as a franchise cricketer began.

It was December 2010 when then 24-year-old Warner grasped the opportunity to spend a couple of weekends playing for Northern Districts Knights in New Zealand's domestic T20 tournament, the HRV Cup.

Even though he had made his international debut in the 50 and 20-over formats the previous year, he was one of a number of Australia-based players (including fellow internationals Brad Hodge and David Hussey) who expanded their white-ball horizons with stints across the Tasman.

As Warner recalls, his introduction to life as a travelling T20 gun for hire was even further from glamorous than Aotearoa is from Artarmon with his initial outing in pink for the Knights scheduled for Oamaru, a town of around 14,000 inhabitants in North Otago.

"That was an eye opener – there wasn't much out there," Warner told reporters at Wellington's Basin Reserve ahead of the first T20 between Australia and New Zealand on Wednesday.

"It was the first place I went to, I didn't know what was going on.

"I literally thought it was a ghost town, I was walking down the street and I think it was a Saturday, and there was just no-one there.

"And we legitimately played on a football field.

"It was quite crazy, coming from Australia and then we're playing on a rugby league field, I was like 'what's going on here?'.

"But I really enjoyed it."

Southee (right) wearing Northern Districts' bright pink in the HRV Cup // Getty

In his debut game for the Knights, with seven ODI appearances and two dozen T20 internationals to his name, Warner opened the batting with Hodge in a team led by ex-NZ batter James Marshall and including Trent Boult against an Otago outfit for whom current Test seamer Neil Wagner opened the bowling.

Warner then flew back to Australia but returned the following weekend to play for the Knights, batting ahead of South Africa veteran Herschelle Gibbs in a line-up that featured Boult and NZ's incumbent Test captain Tim Southee.

His plans for further matches were scuppered by illness.

By the time the subsequent 2011-12 summer rolled around, the prolific opener was selected for his Test debut – coincidentally against a NZ team with Southee in its ranks – and the window for making mid-summer dashes across the ditch had closed.

Warner has made return visits to NZ for Test matches (2016), the ICC ODI World Cup (2015) and a 2018 T20 tri-series with NZ and England (consisting of matches played on either side of the Tasman) where he captained Australia to a memorable tournament win.

However, he has also been the target of sustained personal abuse from Kiwi crowds - most volubly during limited-overs matches in Auckland as part of the 2016 tour – and with a return to Eden Park looming for T20 fixtures on Friday and Sunday, he is prepared for the worst.

"We're close neighbours but in sport we like to beat each other, so we'll be expecting the crowd to come at us as hard as they can but it's in one ear and out the other if I actually hear anything," Warner said today.

"The crowd got personal (in 2016), but if they have to get personal that's their character.

"That's upon each individual if they feel like that's what they have to do.

"If you want to pay your money to come and abuse people, then you have to go back and lay in your own bed."

Warner is greeted with a 'hongi' at Basin Reserve on Monday // Getty

While the 37-year-old might be the opponent Kiwi crowds love to hate, he feels a far greater affection for Australia's nearest Test match neighbour.

His favourite memory of trans-Tasman cricket – apart from receiving his Baggy Green Cap for the Gabba Test against the Black Caps in 2011 – was overseeing his team's successful chase of 244 at a baying Eden Park during that 2018 tri-series.

That was his most recent visit to the land where he first gained a taste for franchise cricket beyond Australia, but Warner remains a strong advocate for New Zealand and has suggested a return to the days when a representative team played in Australia's nascent domestic one-day competition.

That experiment ended in 1975 after New Zealand – with a team that included Test stars Glenn Turner and Richard Hadlee – reached three consecutive finals of Australia's one-day cup tournament and took home the trophy in 1973-74 and 1974-75.

"I've always said we should have a New Zealand team in the Big Bash competition," Warner said today.

"We have (NZ) in the NRL (rugby league) and then there's the Super-15s (rugby) and that all works well, but logistically I don't know how it fits.

"I think definitely Australia should come over here more.

"I don't know the reasons why we haven't come over here.

"With our rivalry and being close neighbours, it just fits."

Under the ICC's current Future Tours Program schedule that mandates all international bilateral cricket for the next three years, the only trans-Tasman men's fixtures outside global tournaments are a three-match T20 Series in NZ set for October next year, and three Tests in Australia in the summer of 2026-27.

By that stage, Warner will be aged 40 and likely be retired from all cricket, or at least deep in the twilight of his playing days if today's pronouncement rings true.

"I will definitely keep playing all the franchise leagues for another couple of years," he said, having ruled out any prospect of extending his Australia tenure beyond the upcoming T20 World Cup in the Caribbean and USA in June.

"I still love the game a lot, and I owe the game a lot as well.

"So me playing in the other franchise leagues will be great, we haven’t had that opportunity to play a lot and play full seasons.

"I offered my time in ILT20 (UAE last month), the MLC (USA) is there, you've got The Hundred (UK) and I had a taste of the CPL (West Indies) in 2018 which I enjoyed.

"But I'm glad I'm not a bowler, because those boys are strong and they hit the ball a long way."

Qantas Tour of New Zealand

February 21: First T20, Wellington, 5.10pm AEDT

February 23: Second T20, Auckland, 5.10pm AEDT

February 25: Third T20, Auckland, 11am AEDT

Australia T20 squad: Mitchell Marsh (c), Pat Cummins, Tim David, Nathan Ellis, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Josh Inglis, Spencer Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Matt Short, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Matthew Wade, David Warner, Adam Zampa

New Zealand T20 squad: Finn Allen, Devon Conway, Tim Seifert, Rachin Ravindra, Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Josh Clarkson, Mitchell Santner (c), Matt Henry, Ish Sodhi, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Trent Boult

February 29 – March 4: First Test, Wellington, 9am AEDT

March 8-12: Second Test, Christchurch, 9am AEDT

Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc

New Zealand Test squad: Tim Southee (c), Tom Blundell (wk), Devon Conway, Matt Henry, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Will O'Rourke, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson, Will Young.