Aussie cricket legend Ian Chappell says David Warner's bombshell retirement reveal has exposed an ugly reality for the nation's Test side. Warner shocked the cricket world last week after announcing his plans to retire from Test cricket, with the veteran opener hoping Sydney's New Year's Test will be his swan-song in red-ball cricket.
Warner is set to regain his spot at the top of the order for Australia's World Test Championship (WTC) final against India, starting on Wednesday at The Oval in London. He then hopes to play through the Ashes and the first three Tests of the home summer against Pakistan, before bowing out in the New Year's fixture in Sydney.
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If Warner maintains his spot in Australia's team and retires in Sydney, he will finish as the country's 10th-most capped Test player with 112 to his name. If Warner is to play nine more Tests for Australia, the brutal reality for the opener is he will need to improve on his showing from the 2019 Ashes series when he managed just 95 runs at an average of 9.5.
England quick Stuart Broad removed Warner a staggering seven times in that horror Ashes series for the opener. His recent figures don't make for much better reading, with Warner making just the solitary triple-figure score in his 32 Test innings since January 2020.
Despite Warner's form and constant questions around his spot at the top of the batting order for Australia, Chappell has no doubt the 36-year-old should be picked to open for both the WTC final and the Ashes, which gets underway at Edgbaston on June 16. The former Aussie captain believes Warner and his opening partner Usman Khawaja are by far the best options and that the lack of quality alternatives to open the batting for Australia is a major concern.
Khawaja is also 36 and in the twilight of his Test career and while Chappell is a huge admirer of gun Victorian opener Will Pucovski, the batter's history with concussions has left his career at somewhat of a crossroads. Marcus Harris, Cameron Bancroft and Matthew Renshaw are amongst the specialist openers vying to replace Warner when does eventually move on, while Travis Head performed admirably against India in Warner's absence.
There is another school of thought that all-rounder Cameron Green could open the batting at Test level for Australia, having done so in the shorter formats of the game. That is certainly at the more radical end of the spectrum but Chappell says what Warner's retirement bombshell has done is expose Australia's lack of depth at opener.
"That's one of Australia's big problems — where they go for Australian batsmen down the track, because not only are they going to lose Warner, they're going to lose (Usman) Khawaja pretty soon, as well," Chappell told Wide World of Sports. "The replacements? Harris hasn't proved anything, Bancroft hasn't proved anything. The best of them is Pucovski, but it's very difficult to pick him when he's had had 10 or 11 concussions.
Chappell argues that Warner remains the best option at the top of the order with Khawaja and in a brutal assessment of Harris' credentials, he warned: "If you're thinking of replacing him (Warner) with Harris, then that's a joke." Australia coach Andrew McDonald seemingly shares the same thoughts as Chappell after indicating Warner would suit up at Edgbaston for the first Test against England, after the WTC final against India.
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While that opening Ashes Test will likely be crucial to Warner's retirement plan, the 36-year-old denies the scars from 2019 will be weighing on his mind. Openers averaged 20.22 in that series across both teams, as Broad also wreaked havoc against Harris and Bancroft at the top for Australia.
Warner goes into the WTC final at The Oval as one of four Aussie players including captain Pat Cummins, Steve Smith and Mitchell Starc who could become the first to be crowned world champions in all three formats of cricket. Australia's record in the biggest tournaments is impressive too, having won both the 2015 one-day World Cup and 2021 T20 title in the past decade, with a 5-1 record in knockout games in that time.
"I hope (that counts for something)," Aussie skipper Cummins said. "One thing about playing lots of cricket is you get experience in pressure moments. And in finals there is no higher-pressure situation.
"That's one of the benefits of having an experienced side. We have seen it all before, we have been in these moments. And we've taken confidence to know no matter what happens you will be okay on the other side of it. Just take the game on and enjoy it."
While the Ashes looms as the current Aussie side's biggest series during their time together, the India clash represents the most serious lead-in match available. While the Ashes urn could ultimately be viewed as the bigger prize, Australian players are well aware this is the one major trophy they are yet to hold.
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