The Intricate and Enduring Legacy of Australian Cricket

No one has ever summed up David Warner, the cricketer and the human being, more accurately than Geoff Lemon in his account of the Sandpapergate scandal, Steve Smith’s Men:“Warner is aggressive, impulsive and daft. He is thoughtful, curious and more intelligent than credited. He can be objectionable and wounding, then considerate and generous. He switches between these states according to slight shifts of the wind on internal seas, and can as easily invent a rationale to justify this afterwards as plot a logical course to arrive there in the first place.

The SCG against Pakistan won’t be the last time he walks onto a cricket field for Australia, but given the T20 World Cup will be hidden behind an Amazon Prime paywall and his stints for his country will now be dictated by the whims of franchise cricket, it’s the end of Warner as an omnipresent part of any line-up in any format.

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already made your own judgement on how he’ll be remembered. He’s either the pocket rocket opener who burst into our lives so memorably in that far-off T20 match against South Africa some 15 years ago and has seldom stopped dazzling us since; or the unrepentant cheat who single-handedly sent Australian cricket into disarray against that same nation, and whose presence in the team until now is only due to his knowledge of the ample skeletons that still reside in that closet.

The truth is his legacy will be more complicated than the binary pros or cons. We probably won’t know exactly how he will sit in our cricket history for years and decades to come. Even then, it’s unlikely to be with the same fervour that we remember the likes of Steve Waugh, or Ricky Ponting, or his only peer for attracting controversy, Shane Warne. Even players who achieved considerably less than he and whose talent pales in comparison to his – your Justin Langers, your Mark Taylors, your David Boons – still hold warm places in the hearts of nearly every Australian cricket fan; it’s doubtful Warner will ever receive the same treatment.

The truth is there is far more respect and adulation for the Bull than his critics will claim. He was warmly celebrated in Perth after reaching the century that granted him the Test farewell he desired; he received applause from all corners of the MCG after his second-innings failure in the Boxing Day Test, his final red-ball innings on that hallowed turf. A home SCG crowd is unlikely to end that trend over the next five days; one suspects most of the harsh words against him will be restricted to the social media sphere, as indeed it mostly is.

All the same, it’s without doubt Warner is among the most unpopular Australian cricketers in living memory. It takes a lot for even a small percentage of our population to turn against our iconic sportsmen; it’s rarer still for a cricketer, and a star one at that, to generate as much scorn as he has in the last few years.