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Warner eyes his new captaincy challenge

The stand-in Aussie skipper has form as captain in the T20 format, having led Sunrisers Hyderabad to the IPL title earlier this year

Having overseen a reversal in form that delivered a belated prize from a previously wretched tour of Sri Lanka, David Warner now embarks on an even sterner challenge in his embryonic International captaincy tenure.

Attempting to address Australia’s modest record in Twenty20 cricket that sees them as one of the least successful Test nations in the ultra-abbreviated format and still in search of the one major global trophy to have repeatedly eluded them, the ICC World T20.

In the continued absence of Steve Smith who is resting up at home in Sydney, Warner will lead a patched-up T20 team into tonight’s match at Pallekele Stadium, the first of two 20-over internationals that draw the curtain on Australia’s two-month tour of Sri Lanka.

Warner sets Aussie record in Kandy

A campaign that delivered a stinging 0-3 defeat in the Test series, but saw Australia rally after an early stumble in the five-game ODI tournament that followed to win 4-1.

That triumph was secured with three consecutive wins under Warner’s stand-in stint as captain of an outfit that boasts the best winning percentage of any team in ODIs played in Asia over the past five years.

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But history suggests that despite its appearance as 50-over cricket without those often tedious middle overs, the Twenty20 game has become a vastly different proposition for Australia who have won exactly half of the 88 T20I matches they’ve contested over more than a decade.

Precisely the same success rate as England, with only battlers Bangladesh (32.26) and Zimbabwe (25.93) recording lower winning ratios among the 10 Test-playing nations.

Warner, who admits to have “thoroughly enjoyed” his turn in charge although he is also looking forward to resuming his role as Smith’s deputy when the mandated skipper returns to action in South Africa later this month, has the comfort of vastly more experience in T20 cricket than the 50-over version.

As captain of Sunrisers Hyderabad (and before that on two occasions with Royal Challengers Bangalore) across 33 matches in the Indian Premier League, and one match at the helm of the Sydney Thunder in just the second match of the inaugural season of the KFC Big Bash League in 2011.

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In which he blasted an unbeaten 102 from 51 balls.

Despite the experience and the success that Warner will bring to T20 Internationals, as the 10th man to captain Australia in the game’s newest format, he concedes he faces challenges in his new role as leader, man manager, spokesperson and statesman.

One of those is curtailing his trademark volatility when on-field matters become heated, whether that involves his own frustrated bowlers letting off steam, umpires laying down the law or opposition players trying to get under his skin.

And vice versa.

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“I’ve got to try and somehow learn how to curb my anger a little bit as well because it can be frustrating and it can get to me a little bit with those scenarios,” Warner told cricket.com.au in a one-on-one interview when his team arrived in Kandy to prepare for tonight’s game.

“So I’ve got to deal with them in my ways.

“I think with bowlers you tend to let them go a little bit unless it requires action from me that they’ve been warned by the umpire.

“I think fast bowlers are a bit like batters as well, we like our space, we don’t really like people telling us what to do.

“But if the necessary course of action is to speak to him because the umpire has spoken to him, then I will definitely take that on board.

“Dealing with things like over-rates and fielders throwing the ball on the wicket (which is banned unless attempting a run-out), that can be challenging at times.

“But I think you have the respect of your teammates and once you tell them once, they’ll stop doing that.”

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Warner’s diplomacy skills were tested during the fourth ODI at Dambulla last week when his strike bowler Mitchell Starc’s frustrations boiled over a couple of times, on one occasion leading him to break the stumps at the non-striker’s end so forcefully that one of the bails sailed beyond the perimeter of the 30-yard fielding ring.

And the skipper had a couple of run-ins with English umpire Michael Gough who was unhappy when Australian fielders bounced the ball on to the pitch when firing returns to the wicketkeeper, and then later over a contentious lbw decision.

But Warner also reaped the rewards of challenging his bowlers to set their own fields, which then places the onus upon them to bowl consistently in the right areas to justify the deployment of players in their respective positions.

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A philosophy that has helped Warner deliver a winning strike rate of almost 60 per cent in his past two years in charge of Sunrisers Hyderabad who he led to their maiden IPL title three months ago.

After being the tournament’s leading runs scorer in his inaugural season as skipper of the franchise in 2015.

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“I try to give as much freedom as I can to the players on the field and then tinker with a few things whether it’s bowling changes, or fielding placements,” Warner said.

“The responsibility, I find when we’re in the field, is on the bowlers because I can’t deliver that ball for them.

“They know what they’re setting out to deliver, we’ve got our plans, they know their plans.

“And for me, it’s about setting the tone with the bat at the top of the order and you can’t go away from what your plans are because we’ve got our team plans.

“And that’s what we set out to do, to try and execute those plans.

“I’m only stepping in for Steve (Smith) and I enjoy doing it, but I think when Steve comes in it’s great to have his knowledge of the game as well.

“And to work with him to keep growing as a team from strength to strength.”

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