Sports

I changed my mind: David Warner is actually cool

The Australian cricketer’s refusal to sign an R.M. Williams boot during last night’s One Day International forced me to reconsider his character, writes Calum Henderson in a stunning flip-flop.

Like most New Zealand cricket fans I have spent the last seven years thinking the Australian cricketer David Warner was bad.

Since his international debut in 2009 Warner has held a more-or-less permanent place at the top of my list of cricket’s most despicable scumbags. He was a grub, a dickhead, a stupid arrogant Aussie. I hated his guts.

I was wrong.

A fleeting incident in a gap between deliveries during the second innings of the second Chappell-Hadlee One Day International at Canberra’s Manuka Oval last night changed my mind.

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It is the 15th over. New Zealand are 72/2, chasing a target of 379 set by Australia in the first innings. David Warner, who contributed 119 of those runs, is taking a quick moment to sign autographs for the many children proffering miniature bats and sun hats over the boundary fence.

A young woman has wandered down from the grass embankment. She doesn’t have a miniature bat or any kind of protective sunwear. Instead she holds out what Channel 9 commentator Michael Slater immediately identifies as “an R.M. Williams boot.”

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The young woman’s lips are moving. She appears to be asking David Warner: “Will you sign my boot?” David Warner’s reply is unmistakable: “No.” He is busy signing autographs for children.

It is clear that she hopes David Warner will stop signing autographs for children and instead autograph the large brown leather boot she is holding. The expression on her face suggests she thinks this would be a funny thing for David Warner to do. She asks again: “Please?”

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David Warner does not avert his gaze from the autographs he is signing for children. He repeats his original answer: “No.” He hands the marker pen back to the ground attendant and returns to his job of playing cricket.

This brief exchange revealed some character traits I had never previously noticed in David Warner. That he doesn’t indulge immature nonsense, for example, or at least that he steadfastly refuses to let such behaviour interrupt him from signing as many autographs for as many children as he can. That he respects leather. Suddenly I saw him in a different light.

David Warner has made some mistakes in the past. Swearing too much. Excessive celebration. Having a bad moustache. In 2013 he punched English cricketer Joe Root in the face at a Birmingham nightclub (arguably this wasn’t actually  bad – in fact I would argue it is one of the best things he has ever done).

After the game Warner was awarded Man of the Match and given a giant novelty cheque for AU$1000. He said he wanted to donate the prize to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He spoke relatively thoughtfully about the game, and lovingly about how his wife and young daughter had been able to travel to Canberra to watch him play.

Perhaps becoming a father has changed David Warner. Maybe it is just that he’s getting older. He is 30 now. The point is, people can change, and people can change their minds.

Last night I changed my mind: I now think David Warner is good.