A disastrous run for David Warner against South Africa could reveal a problem with Australia’s shooting depth, according to former skipper Ian Chappell.
The left-hander has previously raised the possibility of withdrawing from Test cricket within 12 months, but a poor record over the past two years could force managers to act sooner.
The 36-year-old’s most recent Test century came in his final run before COVID-19 hit. Since then, he is averaging 28.45 with just four fifty in 23 innings, well below his career average of 46.29.
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Australia will play three Tests against South Africa starting in Brisbane on December 17, followed by a tour of India (four Tests) and the Ashes in England (five Tests). Warner has wrestled in India and England throughout his career, averaging 24 in India and 26 in England. In 41 test rounds in these two countries, his highest score is 85.
His 2019 Ashes campaign was calamitous, with the opener averaging just 9.50 across the entire series.
“Warner is pretty smart, and I think he’ll figure all these things out. It’ll be up to him to know himself,” Chappell told Wide World of Sports.
“He will probably have a better idea after facing South Africa. He will face a very good paced attack.
“If it’s a flop, well, Keith Miller had the best view of retirement I’ve heard, he was asked why he retired, and he said he wanted to retire when the people would say, ‘Why don’t you’ rather than, ‘Why don’t you’.
“It could be a question for Warner before he goes to England, or even before he goes to India, if the South African series is a disaster for him.”
Chappell added that Warner won the right to make the call himself.
“It’s up to Warner to figure that out. I think they’ll take him to India and England if he makes himself available,” he said.
“I’ve always said the easiest thing with selection is to let a guy down, the hardest thing is to find someone better.
“That’s definitely the case with Warner.”
The former Australia captain noted the lack of an obvious replacement, pointing out that four of the top five scorers in this year’s Sheffield Shield were aged 30 or over.
The exception is Tasmanian fly-half Tim Ward, who has impressed since his debut in April 2021 but is just a century old from 15 appearances.
“The problem for Australia at the moment is identifying the next generation of players. They will be fine with the fast bowlers, there are a few to choose from,” Chappell pointed out.
“But the problem is hitting and spin bowling. We haven’t really gone anywhere for a few years.
“If you look at the main Sheffield Shield runcorers it doesn’t help because they are the same guys who have been there and tried before.”
Chappell dismissed claims made by current Australian back-up batsman Marcus Harris.
“In terms of a potential replacement, Warner is used to playing well, others aren’t,” Chappell added.
“Matthew Renshaw is a better player than Harris, by a mile, in my book.”
A potential problem for Warner is the fact that he recently turned 36, while opening partner Usman Khawaja will celebrate the same milestone in mid-December.
Selectors will likely want to ensure an orderly transition, avoiding the problem of both openers disappearing in a short amount of time.
Khawaja has an average of 87.18 across eight Tests this year, with four centuries, figures that could cause problems for Warner if the managers seek to stagger their departures.
“If you think like that, then yes, Khawaja could be a bit of a problem for Warner,” Chappell said.
“But it won’t surprise me at all if Khawaja has problems in India, and it won’t surprise me at all if he has problems against South Africa either.
“If you play in the right place against Khawaja, he shouldn’t make a stack, and certainly not as an opener.”
Chappell says only Warner will know when his time is up.
“For me, retirement was very easy, I knew it straight away,” he explained.
“The trick for me was to retire immediately once I realized that.
“I think David is smart enough to say, ‘This is it’ if it suddenly hits him, because for me, retirement is the only decision that’s selfish. You take it for one person, and one person only.
“If you suddenly realize it’s all over, you better say it’s over now.”
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