Ashes 2013: David Warner could be worth the risk - Alec Stewart

 

The revelation from Australia coach Darren Lehmann that David Warner is in contention for the first Ashes Test may have surprised a few people.

By the time the teams walk out at Trent Bridge on 10 July, Warner will not have played any cricket since 8 June, when he was suspended for his altercation with England's Joe Root in a Birmingham bar.

He will have trained and hit plenty of balls in the nets, but there is no substitute for time out in the middle and throwing him straight into Ashes battle would undoubtedly be something of a gamble.

During my career, we would routinely play County Championship matches and one-day games in between Test matches and I would have felt undercooked going into a Test without a few innings - and hopefully some runs - behind me.

David Warner's Australia career

David Warner
  • Warner has made 19 Test appearances, averaging 39.46 with the bat. He has made three centuries and seven fifties
  • In one-day internationals, Warner averages 29.81 from 38 innings with a strike rate of 80.58
  • In 44 innings in Twenty20 internationals, he averages 28.71 at a strike-rate of 139.26

Warner, however, belongs to a different era. Since the advent of central contracts, international players play next to no cricket between Test matches, and have become accustomed to switching between the different forms of the game going into international series with little or no build-up.

Given Warner's style as a batsman - he is a naturally talented striker of a cricket ball - he may be exactly the type of player who can turn it on like a tap and start middling the ball from the off.

We are, after all, talking about a talented cricketer here. In his short Test career, he has already carried his bat through the fourth innings of a Test match against New Zealand, smashed a 69-ball hundred against India in Perth and struck 119 off 112 balls against South Africa's world-class attack in Adelaide.

He was picked in their original squad as one of their leading batsmen because he has the potential to change a game. He is a clever cricketer and could be an effective counter-attacking option if he is moved down the order to number six.

New coach Lehmann has a very sharp cricket brain and has had success wherever he has been, so any decision he makes - in conjunction with the selectors and captain Michael Clarke - will be well thought through.

In his playing days, Lehmann was a high quality batsman with great natural ability and he may see a bit of himself in Warner. I think he understands him and will get the best out of him.

I'm sure they will have spent time in each other's company talking cricket and will have formed an effective pupil-teacher relationship.

If Warner does play at Trent Bridge, he will inevitably cop plenty of flak from the crowds. He will be the pantomime villain and will have to be thick-skinned enough to deal with all the verbal taunting.

In the middle, however, I don't anticipate too many issues between him and the England players. I think what happened that night has been blown out of all proportion and both teams will want to move on and set about the business of trying to strike first blood in the series.

David Warner

David Warner celebrates his century against South Africa in November 2012

Lehmann's determination to give Warner a clean slate has been typical of the way he has already stamped his authority on the squad and re-energised the Aussie campaign.

By naming his opening partnership a week before the first Test, he is showing clarity of thought and giving both Shane Watson and Chris Rogers the confidence to go out and perform.

From the moment Rogers was recalled to the squad at the age of 35 he was always going to play, the only question mark was over whether he would open. I think it's the right call because his experience of English conditions and the way the new ball behaves over here will be invaluable.

Watson, meanwhile, has shown in both Australia's tour matches, that he can be a forceful and imposing presence at the top of the order.

In scoring a century before lunch at Worcester, he is embodying Lehmann's desire to take the game to the opposition by playing an attacking brand of cricket.

Lehmann played in the era when the Australian team always took the positive action at every opportunity. They weren't playing to stay in games, they were playing to dominate games.

The new coach wants this Australian side to emulate that approach even if they do not have anywhere near the talent of their predecessors.

If you go out there thinking you are not very good, you will play as if you are not very good, but if you are filled with confidence and want to be positive you are much more likely to succeed.

Australia will be looking to lay down their marker on the first Test as soon as possible. England job is to play good cricket themselves and stop the visitors in their tracks.

Fast-tracked Fawad

Fawad Ahmed

Fawad Ahmed is now available for the Ashes

The news that Pakistan-born leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed has been granted Australian citizenship should not be giving England too many sleepless nights. He has very little first-class experience and it would be a huge ask to expect him to make an instant impact in the Ashes.

He reminds me a bit of Imran Tahir, who was billed as the next big thing when he qualified to play for South Africa but then got smashed out of the attack by Australia in Adelaide.

Pietersen the introvert

I gather that Kevin Pietersen's description of himself as an introvert in a BBC Radio 5 live interview with Andrew Flintoff has caused a few raised eyebrows.

I'll leave the decision on whether he fits that adjective to other people but what I can say is that within the Surrey dressing-room he is a very polite and generous individual.

Believe it or not he can be very quiet, and you can almost forget he is there but when he does talk he is always worth listening to because he has great knowledge about the game.

Surrey on the up

Overseeing the cricket at Surrey, while continuing with my other media and corporate commitments, has been as full on as I expected. I am running up a fair old phone bill, and my mileage has gone through the roof, but I am enjoying every minute of it.

Stuart Barnes, who is running the team on a day-to-day basis, has been quite outstanding and the players have put in some decent performances. We played well in the second half of the drawn game with Yorkshire at Headingley, where I felt we were the only side looking to win the game.

Although we started with a loss at Hampshire in the FL t20, we have responded well with good victories over Sussex and Kent.