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Warner, the David who beat Goliath

David Warner went from a stringent Sydney suburb to a sublime Sydney sunset.

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David-Warner
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David-Warner. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

"It's easy pickings [for critics] when you're 36 going on 37. I've seen it before with the ex-players as well. So for me if I'm taking pressure off the rest of the other guys, and no one's worrying about the rest of the team, I'm happy to do that," David Warner told ESPNcricinfo while his detractors had him in the coffin. 

Warner being Warner refused to go and knocked the top off. He wanted to stay on for another 12 months, looking to bow out on his own terms. He has never hidden his true self, and there he was being all himself while outlining a farewell party at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Sport usually is selfish and one does not go against it. But when one does, they are against all odds. For Warner, it was more about the fight than conquest. And he looked pretty confident that he could bat out critics till Sydney - a career he had shaped proving the doubters wrong. 

Composure, courage, consistency. Erm, wait. Probably not the right words. Maybe self-belief? Yeah, self-belief. That probably sits beautifully. 

Beyond anything else, this was a bloke who grew up in a housing commission in Sydney who embodied the phrase “The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.” 

Well it really had to be that way, didn't it? As a ten-year-old at a flat in Matraville, Warner’s family was barely affluent to buy a cricket bat, let alone use it without breaking it, while also saving it from someone who tried to pinch the stick. 

That's what moulded him into something that he grew up to become - one who endured it all. The mentality did not come easily; instead, it came from a place that didn't let one get up before they were knocked down again. It was rough, but the kid was tough. 

David-Warner
David-Warner. (Photo by Ryan Pierse - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images/Getty Images)

Warner had to work for everything. Bread, butter, and runs. Nothing out there was for free and little Warner eventually understood the word ‘no’, and taught himself not to ask for something that he didn't earn. He was packing shelves till 3 a.m. and woke up at 7 a.m. for school. He was also delivering newspapers on weekends, and Christmas gifts were more of being thankful for what one has. 

The tough love was good parenting and it had a clear meaning - a direction for a good future. With everything he went through in cricket and life - the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the pretty, and the not-so-pretty — the tough love parenting was making sense and with his fight as big as his records, he held everything together with immense heart. 

The little kid’s heart was not only the muscle at the centre of a circulation system, but also his emotional database. It pumped blood as well as a lot of faith around his body. With faith came resilience, mental fortitude, and a sight of the bigger picture in life. Like how it carried away unwanted carbon dioxide, it also carried away negativity. Warner was a spectrum of positive emotions — he didn't bottle them in; but he showed them all over.

When he first announced his arrival back in January 2009 smashing Dale Steyn, Makhaya Ntini and Jacques Kallis all over Melbourne, he showed glimpses of his unmatched potential while he was just another player who could play a bit of white-ball cricket. 

But he wasn't just any other player with promise. Little did he know he was about to climb the pantheon of cricket artistry. And every other game he played the jaws dropped, the spines tingled, and the excitement grew. 

As the years rolled on, he went from a man who was the first cricketer in 132 years to play for Australia without any first-class experience, to an uncomfortable bull. 

The nostrils flared and the horns lowered. He scored runs and scored them for fun. But with runs came along controversies. The Joe Root altercation gifted him a suspension while the stairway altercation in Durban handed him a fine. Well, the show had only started. The Sandpaper Gate in Cape Town had eyeballs popping out around the cricketing fraternity. 

He knew he had crossed the line and tearfully accepted the sanctions that were imposed. He was banned from playing for 12 months and was taken away from any leadership responsibilities for the rest of his Australian career. Warner sure had crossed the line, but Cricket Australia did too with their punishments. 

David-Warner
David-Warner. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

With these came anxiety, nerves, despair, boos, bans, and headlines. A lot of headlines. The bull was suddenly controllable.

The good things also came Warner's way — the hundreds, double hundreds, triple hundreds, World Cups, a T20 World Cup, World Test Championship, and celebrations. And with them came applause. The redemption had been complete. 

The world suddenly loved him all over again, and Warner loved them back. It felt like how he loved this stupid game, and it loved him back. It made sense. Everyone wanted a piece of Warner. 

When the man from Sydney attended a press conference in Adelaide after a majestic triple ton, and was asked about his horrific batting display in the Ashes away from home only to respond “Nah, never, never losing that, what kind of a question is that?” with a cheeky smile on his face, it was clear that Warner was indeed one of a kind. 

The world did get what it wanted and a few years later, Warner did too as he walked into a sublime sunset at home in Sydney, in front of his family and friends. Most importantly, he was signing off on his very own terms because it mattered to him.

Warner played cricket throughout his career with a lot of self-belief and wanting to entertain. And he ended it the same way in his last Test innings, charging the bowler forward, going back and forth, punching, crunching, flashing, reverse-sweeping, reverse-scooping and also smiling. 

What you get with Warner is his own self, regardless of the situation. At least most of the time, certainly in his last game where he was jumping around, playing unorthodox shots, high-risk-high-reward cricket. Warner was up and running in the most poetic way possible in his one final Test go-around.

David-Warner
David-Warner. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

In between an uncontrollable bull to an evangelical reverend, there was another side to Warner. A loving, emotional side. Some people don’t love in hopes of a reward but love unconditionally. That’s how the David Warner-Philip Hughes relationship was. Knowing a little about Warner after watching him for over 12 years, there will not be a single day when he’s around the SCG that goes by without talking about Hughesy. 

Warner’s character will be immortalised in the minds of millions, maybe even billions. For many around Sydney, Australia, and across the globe, he's been an inspiration —  one who did not grow up with a great background and yet could make it big in cricket as well as life.

Warner may be leaving two of the three formats but his legacy will live on in the kids who grew up idolising him, the teammates with whom he shared a beer or two in the dressing room, the rivals he brushed shoulders with, and the fans who believed he could bring joy. Warner was the perfect symbol that cricket needed. 

He was a hero who made people believe in their dreams. If a little kid standing at 5’5’’ from a stringent suburb in Sydney could go on to become one of the greatest openers the game has ever seen, then he made sure he took the people in the preparation wave that made them believe they could work towards something they love.

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