ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Ponting's World Cup warning: 'the handbrake is off'
The Australia great offers insight into David Warner's World Cup campaign and pinpoints changes that could see opener now take the tournament by storm
Louis Cameron in London
13 June 2019, 11:54 PM AEST
The handbrake is off for a rejuvenated David Warner, according to Australia assistant coach Ricky Ponting, who warned World Cup competitors to fear the opener that he believes could finish as the tournament's leading run-scorer.
After struggling for rhythm in early matches, Warner returned to something nearing his damaging best in compiling a match-winning 107 off 111 balls against Pakistan in his fourth game back in Australian colours.
The challenges of reintegrating himself back into a team he’d been out of for over a year weighed on Warner, conceded Ponting, who revealed Australia's support staff urged him to just "see ball, hit ball" before facing Pakistan.
"We'd all seen that he (Warner) probably hadn’t been batting as fluently as we're used to seeing," Ponting told cricket.com.au.
"Having spoken to him after the last game at The Oval. It was more of a mental thing than anything, he was just holding back a little bit and not playing with the freedom we're used to seeing him play with.
"He had a pretty relaxed day yesterday (Tuesday's match eve), he didn't do any batting, he wanted to come into the game with a fresh mind.
"You could see by the way he moved into his shots and picking up the length early, he hit a lot of pull shots early in his innings, which is always a good sign for him.
"He'd taken the handbrake off which has allowed himself to play with a bit more freedom.
"If he keeps playing like that for the rest of the tournament, he's probably going to be the leading run scorer."
It's perhaps a mark of how good Warner is that his performances in the first three games of the tournament came under the microscope.
The left-hander struck an unbeaten 89 to help Australia defeat Afghanistan in their tournament opener, fell for three against West Indies, before scoring an 84-ball 56 in their defeat to India.
Warner himself admitted on Wednesday he felt like he had "no rhythm" against the Afghans, got out to a "lazy" stroke against the Windies and battled against good straight bowling from India.
Ponting, who's working under head coach Justin Langer mentoring Australia's batters, spoke to Warner about approaching Wednesday's match against Pakistan with a more relaxed outlook.
"It was just about being a bit freer in everything he did," Ponting continued. "I think he was just trying a bit too hard, making a statement coming back in a World Cup.
"Wanting to do everything right and impress everybody rather than just going out and hitting the ball and scoring runs like we've seen him do for 10 years.
"I think in the back of his own mind to a certain degree, I think he was a little bit more worried about getting out than scoring runs.
"We said to him after the last game, 'mate, just go out and see ball, hit ball.' He got off to a good start and continued on for 30 or 40 overs."
With 255 runs at an average of 85 in four hits, Warner now sits behind only Bangladesh’s Shakib al-Hasan (260 runs) at top of the tournament's run-scoring charts.
Two spots behind him is opening partner Aaron Finch, who has 190 runs at 47.50, with the pair sharing in a 146-run opening stand against Pakistan, the highest partnership of the World Cup to date.
They're promising signs for the reigning 50-over champions, who sat equal on points at the top of the standings alongside New Zealand after their 41-run win over Pakistan, with upcoming games against Sri Lanka on Saturday at The Oval and Bangladesh at Trent Bridge on Thursday.
Asked if other sides will now be more fearful of Warner, Ponting said: "I think they should.
"You know with David Warner at his best, if you miss your line and length then he's going to make you pay.
"Every game you go into is a different set of challenges for every player. Davey capitalised today on Pakistan today not executing as well as they could have.
"We know against Sri Lanka, they'll be well-planned … But Warner at his best is difficult to bowl to and I think he was back to somewhere near his best today."
2019 World Cup
Australia's squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
June 12: Australia beat Pakistan by 41 runs
June 15: Sri Lanka v Australia, The Oval
June 20: Australia v Bangladesh, Trent Bridge
June 25: England v Australia, Lord's
July 9: Semi-Final 1, Old Trafford
July 11: Semi-Final 2, Edgbaston
July 14: Final, Lord's
Sync Australia's World Cup schedule to your calendar HERE
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE