Warner blossoms both on field and off
David Warner's transformation from brash slogger to mature run machine continued at a rapid rate in 2015
The year that was to re-define David Warner’s cricket life could scarcely have got off to a more inglorious start.
The 29-year-old, who tonight was crowned as Allan Border Medallist having won Australian cricket’s highest individual prize for the first time, found himself once more in the cross-hairs of administrators, umpires, opposition players and media commentators.
Allan Border Medal coverage
- Allan Border Medallist and Test Player of the Year: David Warner
- Belinda Clark Award: Ellyse Perry
- ODI Player of the Year: Glenn Maxwell
- Domestic Player of the Year: Adam Voges
- Bradman Young Cricketer of the Year: Alex Ross
- Crown Golden Ale Red Carpet photo gallery
Warner polled an overall 240 votes (split evenly between those awarded by his teammates and those from umpires and media representatives) in the Border Medal count, 21 more than Steve Smith and 57 ahead of third-placed Mitchell Starc.
In the Test Player of the Year, Warner (30 votes) polled six more than Smith (even though the Test skipper scored three Man of the Match awards in the voting period to his deputy’s two) with Starc again placed third with 18 votes.
AB Medal winner David Warner // Getty Images
In just the second match of the Border Medal voting period, Warner had mistakenly accused Indian batsman Rohit Sharma of deflecting the Australian’s throw from the in-field and sneaking a single from the resultant overthrow, in defiance of the game’s unwritten protocols.
As it turned out, Rohit had not come into contact with the ball and he indignantly stood his ground when Warner confronted him mid-pitch during the subsequent change of ends during which Warner ill-advisedly demanded that the Indian batsman "speak English".
WATCH: Things get heated at the MCG
Following, as it did, an angry clash with India’s acting Test captain Virat Kohli in the summer’s opening Test months earlier, the $1500 fine and rebuke that Warner copped from match officials also came with a scolding from Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland who publicly chided the combative opener.
"Quite simply, he needs to stop looking for trouble," Sutherland sternly warned, against the backdrop that any third strike against Warner might curtail his involvement in the ICC World Cup that loomed the following month.
"This is the second time he has been before the ICC match referee this season and that’s twice too often."
Warner’s unquestioned talent had indeed too often been accompanied by an asterisk denoting a questionable temperament, and the apology and pledge to mend his ways that he delivered the morning after his MCG meltdown in that ODI fixture carried a weary air of familiarity.
"I was in the wrong ... I got in trouble for technically engaging the player (Sharma) and you are not allowed to do that now," Warner conceded, in an admission dressed heavily in qualification.
But the boy who had blazed an untried path to Test cricket – from grade and limited-overs ranks to the T20 international arena and eventually first-class game time – was already showing a willingness and capacity to curb his animated and emotive instincts.
WATCH: Warner and the pride of the Baggy Green
A change that has not only seen him named Australia’s Test Player of the Year – Warner’s first award in any category at the annual Border Medal evening – but also join the modern greats as the night's eponymous gong recipient.
An accolade that Warner gave himself no chance of receiving when quizzed about a likely winner before the first votes were counted.
"No, I wouldn’t have thought so," Warner told reporters when asked about his own chances of adding his name to those of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Steve Smith, Steve Waugh, Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden, Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee, Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson.
"As an opening batter it’s quite tough, you have to keep scoring back to back especially in Test match cricket.
"I think Steve Smith has probably got it in the bag well and truly.
"He’s been a fantastic player over the last 18-24 months, the way he’s matured in that time and taken over the captaincy and felt no pressure at all to go out there and score runs."
A mindset that has seen Warner produce similarly prolific results over the same period.
WATCH: Warner starts to the voting period with a century
His relationship with his now wife, Candice, that yielded the couple’s first daughter Ivy Mae in September 2014 immediately sparked a celebratory run of three centuries from his next six Test innings, and a shift in focus that was noticeable to all but the occasional on-field opponent.
The blood rushes that had carried him to a memorable century in a session in just his fifth Test against India in Perth but limited him to a solitary triple-figure score in more than 30 Test innings that followed were being increasingly harnessed.
A career-high ODI score of 178 against Afghanistan in Perth in a World Cup match a year ago, just weeks after being counselled by his employer, showed Warner could heed his own advice as well as take on board the wisdom of others.
WATCH: Warner slams an ODI career best 178
A consistent – if not, save for his destruction of Afghanistan, incandescent – World Cup ended with his vital run-a-ball 45 as Australia chased down New Zealand’s modest total to win the title.
A similarly solid Test tour to the West Indies followed an Indian Premier League stint where Warner, for the first time in elite company, was entrusted with the captaincy at Sunrisers Hyderabad and showed that his new-found maturity also came with a preparedness to embrace responsibility.
Which meant, as Australia’s Ashes campaign departed the rails in the English Midlands and talk about regeneration of the Test team became the topic du jour, Warner found himself touted as a candidate to become Steve Smith’s deputy should Smith (as expected) replace Michael Clarke as captain.
WATCH: Warner defiant as Ashes slip away
Not surprisingly, there were some who coughed into their kippers upon reading that a bloke better known in Birmingham for taking a swing at Joe Root in a pub might be taking on a job that had him just a fractured finger or a torn tendon away from Australian sport’s most prestigious office.
But Warner, as with most challenges that come his way, confronted the doubters head-on.
"Go back two years my life probably wasn’t in the right direction," Warner conceded in Nottingham, where Australia’s Ashes ambition bottomed out and Clarke announced his days were done.
"I was playing cricket for Australia. It’s a boyhood dream but I needed to be put back in my place a little bit.
"And since then I think I’ve turned a lot around. I’ve got a lot of hundreds and I’m playing a good brand of cricket.
WATCH: Warner's pride at taking over the vice-captaincy
"There’s been a little bit of a hiccup with the Rohit Sharma stuff, but at the end of the day that was on the field and I’ve learned to bite my tongue a little bit now."
With his tongue bitten, Warner set about ensuring others had their words to chew on when he took on the vice-captaincy and wisely allowed his bat to do his on-field talking.
Wearing his newly minted deputy sheriff’s badge, Warner sauntered into the summer’s Test campaign against New Zealand with consecutive innings of 163, 116 and a career-best (to date) 253 even though his preparation for the season had been delayed due to the thumb fracture he suffered in the post-Ashes ODI series.
WATCH: Warner slams maiden Test double-century
Perhaps even more satisfying for those who took a calculated risk by installing the T20 slogger turned reformed brat as a team leader was that not only has Warner taken his game to another level, he’s done it in almost monastic silence.
"I'll still give the banter (within the squad)," Warner reassured the public when his appointment as Australia vice-captain was announced in England last August.
"Each team needs a few characters and I see myself as being that character sometimes, and I will probably try and continue to be that funny person.
"But now, with a bit more responsibility I'll be trying to help Steve (Smith) as much as I can.
"I think the past 12-18 months I’ve shown how much I’ve matured.
WATCH: Warner hits fastest ever SCG century
"I’ve got a young family (the couple’s second daughter Indi Rae was born earlier this month), I got married, I’m enjoying my off-field life and I’m thoroughly enjoying my on-field performances as well.
"So for me it’s about me trying to help Steve as much as we can driving this team forward for the next five to 10 years."
By which time, he might have become a regular fixture on the podium come Border Medal night.