Warner calls for sledging restraint

Opening batsman says verbal exchanges have 'crossed the line'

David Warner, the man known to many rival outfits throughout the cricket world as the chief stirrer when the heat is turned up on-field, has counselled teammates and rivals alike to show a bit more restraint.

While conceding he represents an unlikely source for such anti-inflammatory wisdom, Warner identified the needless goading of batsmen immediately after they have been dismissed as a potential flash point that needs to be hosed down.

And the 28-year-old, who was fined after the Adelaide Test for making provocative comments to Indian bowler Varun Aaron who had prematurely celebrated Warner’s dismissal from what turned out to be a no-ball, has promised to take his own advice.

The current Commonwealth Bank Test series, which concludes at the SCG with the fourth Test beginning on Tuesday, has seen regular outbreaks of hostility between the Australian and Indian players with Warner and India’s new Test skipper Virat Kohli featuring prominently. 

Warner says that while he does not believe the verbal exchanges, one of which prompted Sri Lankan umpire Kumar Dharmasena to intervene and summon Australia captain Steve Smith for a chat during the Boxing Day Test, have gone too far there was a risk that some elements were getting out of hand.

“Sometimes the way that we celebrate wickets, not just the Indian team but we do it as well,” Warne said today when asked if there were examples of on-field banter that had “crossed the line”.

“Sometimes we’ve all got to be careful not to get over-excited and get in the batsman’s face.

“Let them walk off, I think the best thing you can do is turn your back and give them the silent treatment when you get them out because you have the last laugh doing it that way.

“I know I have to learn, and I’ve learned from that in the past, but I think all of us can take a message from me.

“Which is a surprise.”

With Kohli to lead his team for the second time in this series, now that MS Dhoni has announced but still not explained his retirement from Test cricket, the Australians are expecting a change in tactics.

Just how that will manifest itself given Kohli’s volatility and combative nature despite India being two-nil down with a solitary Test to play is open to speculation. 

But Warner was quick to point out that the absence of India’s most capped and most successful Test captain represented an early advantage to the home team even before a ball is bowled or a coin tossed.

“MS thinks a lot about the game, he’s very knowledgeable,” Warner said after the Australians completed their major pre-Test training session today.

“He knows a lot about to get each individual out, you can see the plans and … it was always challenging when you’re out there (to see) what trick does he (Dhoni) have up his sleeve today?

“So (India not having) the experience that Dhoni brings gives us a bit of an edge.

“Kohli is a fiery character but he goes out there and plays with his heart on his sleeve.

“I think he’s a fantastic cricketer, he’s got a long career ahead of him, I think he’ll do a fantastic job and I’d like to see if he comes out with the aggression he used last Test (in Melbourne) if he does that as a captain.” 

While India will make at least one forced change with reserve wicketkeeper Wriddihiman Saha to take over the gloves from Dhoni, Australia has also lost a key player with opening bowler Mitchell Johnson ruled out of the final Test with hamstring soreness.

Neither team’s starting XI has been confirmed, but Australian selector Trevor Hohns was at today’s training session at the SCG and spoke briefly with pace bowler Peter Siddle and then with fellow quick Mitchell Starc.

Siddle then left the nets carrying the air of a man who had once again been overlooked despite there being a tailor-made opening in the line-up, while Starc engaged in an animated chat with fellow New South Wales quick Josh Hazlewood.

Which all amounts to circumstantial, if far-from-definitive evidence that Starc will share the new ball with Ryan Harris, and with Hazlewood to round out the pace attack.

A theory that gained further traction when Warner was asked about the hole that the absence of Johnson, Test cricket’s most successful bowler since he returned to the game 14 months ago, would leave in Australia’s attack plans.

“We’ve got Mitchell Starc who can bowl at 150kph,” Warner said of the left-armer who looks likely to win the 11th recall of his rollercoaster Test career.

“Mitch (Johnson) has that X-factor and I think the opposition sometimes get that fear that they’re going out to face him for three or five overs and they’ve got to get through that tough period.

“But we’ve got great (bowling) stock behind us and they’ll be able to do that job.” 

Whether that stock will include Shane Watson’s seamers became a point of discussion this morning when the all-rounder was forced to leave training before facing a ball in the nets due to a gastric upset.

While Australian team officials remained confident he would be fit to play come Tuesday morning, it has raised the prospect of left-arm spinner Ashton Agar slotting into the role of all-rounder in what would be Australia’s biggest selection surprise since … well, since Agar’s unexpected debut in 2013.

Agar’s return for the Alcohol. Think Again Western Warriors in the Bupa Sheffield Shield competition so far this summer has been seven wickets at 45.14 - less than wrist spinners Fawad Ahmed (18) Adam Zampa (9) and Cameron Boyce (8) – and 130 runs at 26.

But former Test captain Ricky Ponting has been touting Agar as a “smokey” selection for Australia’s 15-man World Cup squad to be announced next week and claimed his inclusion in the Test squad was largely to inculcate him into the team environment ahead of that tournament.