The left-handed opener backs himself to be fully fit

Will the man with immense bat-speed win his race against time to be fit for the first Test? The explosive David Warner is a game-changer. And he will be critical to Australia’s plans in the upcoming four-Test series.

The 26-year-old New South Welshman’s left thumb is still strapped but the opener exudes belief ahead of the series opener. “I am very confident of playing in the first Test. I have been hitting the ball well in the last four days in the nets,” he says.

Batting is the easier part with gloves covering the affected area. Fielding, rather catching, could make tougher demands on a cricketer with a fitness issue such as the one Warner confronts.

“Well, you have wicket-keepers ’keeping with a broken finger, it is common. Then they bat because of the glove protecting the injury. Right now, I am fielding and catching at 50 per cent of my ability. It will try to make it 100 per cent by the time of the Test,” he says.

The pocket powerhouse is mentally tough as well.

“I am prepared to overcome the barrier of pain to play for the country,” he says.

Warner does not want to miss the big occasion when the four-Test series gets underway at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on February 22.

Almost healed

Revealing more about the injury, Warner says: “It’s a crack in the joint. When the injury happened they told me it would take three to four weeks to heal. It’s already three weeks now.”

Considered a Twenty20 specialist before his Test debut, Warner has 1,068 runs in 15 Tests at 44.50. And his three centuries include a stroke-filled unbeaten 123 against New Zealand on a seaming track in Hobart (2011) when more technically refined batsmen failed.

“I like to keep it simple. You see the ball and then you hit it. You also need to know when to switch on and off mentally. Whenever I have attempted to make things more complicated, planned too much, I have struggled,” he says.

Fuelled by instinct

Warner, indeed, is fuelled by his instinct. He is someone who can disrupt the length of the Indian spinners with booming straight hits, the cuts and the sweeps.

Importantly, he appears to have imbibed the essence of playing on the sub-continental pitches against spin.

“You got to go down the track or get really deep in your crease. My game is decisive. I either go fully forward or fully back,” he says.

Warner has relished his all-left opening pairing of contrasts with Ed Cowan.

“Cowan and I average around 45 as an opening combination, which is fantastic. He knows when to get me off the strike and when to rotate it when I am hitting well. We need to set ourselves even higher targets,” he says.

Bouncing back every time

It was left-arm quick Mitchell Johnson who broke Watson’s thumb during ‘nets’ at the WACA ahead of the Australia-West Indies five-match ODI series, which the host swept 5-0. Johnson, termed a ‘once-in-a-lifetime bowler’ by Dennis Lillee, thanks the pace legend for guiding him during difficult times at the MRF Pace Foundation.

The 31-year-old’s career has been blighted by injuries but he has displayed strength of mind to see motes of lights in darkness.

On the philosophy of his bowling, Johnson, who has scalped 205 batsmen in 50 Tests at 30.63, says: “I do not try to over-complicate it.”

In this context, Johnson remembers pace giant Glenn McGrath’s words.

“He told me to try and hit the top of off-stump with every ball and bowl the occasional bouncer,” he recalls.

Fuller length

Johnson speaks of bowling a fuller length on the Indian pitches. “The ball does not swing straight out your hand here but reverses. You have to bowl a lot straighter,” he says.

The Queenslander has an aggressive streak in him too. “On the flat wickets here you need to ensure that the batsmen do not get knee-high balls. You have to push them back with the short balls. Get them out of their comfort zone,” he says.

He does plan to make things hot in the middle for the Indian batsmen.

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