MELBOURNE, (Reuters) – Age and fatherhood may have mellowed David Warner, but nothing coaxes the old ‘Bull’ out of the Australia vice-captain like a home Ashes series.
Warner’s clarion call this week to summon ‘hatred’ for visiting England continued the revival of a once-famed chirpiness that cranked back into gear during the long-running pay dispute between the players and Cricket Australia.
It signalled another nail in the coffin for the ‘Reverend’, the nickname bestowed upon Warner in a pious nod to his quieter demeanour on and off the field in recent seasons.
Prior to the ‘Reverend’, there was only the ‘Bull’, a moniker that aptly captured his rampaging ways, whether swinging his over-sized bat in the middle, firing off an angry tweet in the early hours, or throwing a punch at England’s Joe Root.
Off-field domestic bliss and the threat of suspension for multiple code of conduct breaches may have accelerated Warner’s maturity, but the Ashes is a powerful red rag to the bovine spirit within.
“At the moment I’m not going to put any vibes out there or get into a verbal stoush,” Warner said on Australian radio, only moments after describing the series as ‘war’.
“But come day one when we walk out there, there will definitely be some words exchanged.”
While Warner won respect among some of his compatriots for being able to rein himself in, he could see his approval rating Down Under soar even higher if he lets himself go.
Former Australia captain Steve Waugh, whose peerless teams relentlessly sledged the English in consecutive Ashes wins, endorsed the lefthander’s call to arms.
“There’s nothing wrong with that bit of byplay before the series starts. It gets everybody interested,” Waugh told local media.
“I’m sure Dave can handle making those comments himself. As long as he can back them up, which I’m sure he will.”
Warner’s salvo has already ruffled feathers in England, with former opener Marcus Trescothick showing his disdain.
“It’s pathetic,” he told the BBC.
“To come out with those sort of comments is not needed. There’s always the hype that comes around before the Ashes, so I don’t think it’s something the (English) players will be drawn into.
“I think it will just be a good distraction, hopefully, for Australia and they can get caught up in the war of words.”
The war of words hardly brought Australia undone during England’s last tour to Australia, when Michael Clarke’s side whitewashed the tourists 5-0.
Warner was in the thick of it, taunting England’s batsmen for having ‘scared eyes’ when faced with Mitchell Johnson’s pace barrage in the first test in Brisbane.
Clarke, too, did not hold back and was caught telling England paceman James Anderson to get ready for a “broken … arm”. It was in retaliation, he said, for Anderson threatening to punch his team mate George Bailey.
Barring Warner’s 2013 punch on Root, now the England captain, the posturing has never escalated beyond fighting talk and the series starting in Brisbane on Nov. 23 is certain to see more bark than bite.
Warner looks unlikely to pass up the chance to stir the pot, however, and has even been happy to weigh in on the matter of Ben Stokes.
The England all-rounder, hugely important for the tourists’ hopes of winning the series, remains suspended pending an investigation into his arrest outside a Bristol nightclub.
“I did do my time,” Warner said of his two-test ban from the Ashes in the wake of the Root incident.
“I think everyone in the world is waiting to see what happens there (with Stokes) and what the outcome is.”