The best dramatic villains are dramatic villains who don’t know they’re dramatic villains; who might even turn out to be heroes.
Satan in Paradise Lost, for example, who sees himself less as the embodiment of all human evil and more as a kind of underdog freedom fighter, Che Guevara with hooves.
We remember Hans Gruber in “Die Hard”, who is convinced until the end that he is actually the main character in this constellation, that this is actually a droll and stylish outsider who carries out a victimless robbery on a man coked-up American hyper-drama perpetrated. Capitalists, hindered only by a bloodthirsty policeman in a vest.
Even in sport, where the emotional barometer is fixated on extremely binary judgments, there can be gray areas and role confusion. It’s not easy to write these words. But as David Warner begins his farewell summer at home, it seems like the right moment to admit that actively dismissing Warner and dwelling on his flaws, his main villain energy, has always felt a little awkward and forced.
The thing is, I like him. Maybe you secretly like him too. That’s good. This is a safe space. There is no judgment here. Although of course there’s actually a lot of judgment to be made because Warner always seemed to have such a clear role as the athletic villain.
Never before has a cricketer been accommodated so relentlessly on an English cricket pitch (racial reasons aside). No elite player has been suspended for a year for on-field bang-to-rights cheating and then simply continued at the same level. Warner has even begun to consciously embrace the bearded, giggling cartoon dog aesthetic. He looks evil – and optics, optics, snapshots are of course the most important thing.
But as Warner prepares to exit Test cricket, it is time to also accept that we will miss him, that he gave the sport an epic and vital feel and that, contrary to the way as his career began, was not just an all-format great, but an agent of Test cricket’s supremacy, a bulwark against its disappearance into the water. He might actually have been one of the heroes.
This is, of course, a record-breaking moment that desperately needs some explanation, including a little later where I dismiss intentional cheating as actually not being that bad. For now, it was just a pleasure to watch Warner take on Pakistan this week in the familiar grainy, faded television images that circled the planet from Perth in the gloom of an English December, a place of deep green and harsh white light . of bowlers who Let the bounce and speed overwhelm youand of course the annual spectacle in which Warner fights his way to a hundred against the latest fall tour guys.
Channel 7 has already pivoted its marketing around the idea of a homecoming for a good, aging team and a special farewell to its underrated opener. Warner’s Hundred in Perth sets this bow up perfectly for a Christmas display at the MCG and a final curtain call in Sydney.
Everything usual was there. Warner is not an aesthetically striking batsman. He has three basic movements: the offside shot, the hit shot and the pull. He’s like Alastair Cook on steroids. Here he let the part-time off-spinner clink over the wide long-on like a man hitting a conker over a clump of trees with a frying pan, and later, looking the other way, produced a superb six-over hook-paddle. was already grinning as he staggered backwards.
Afterwards there was even a bit of a classic press conference feeling, where there was a lot of talk about the “Psst” celebration. (“You touch the shush.” “Yes, it was a shush”). Shushes, hundreds, a discussion of grudges and etiquette. More everyday cricketers are available. We look forward to next year’s thoughts from Jayden Goodbloke, who makes confident jokes and doesn’t seem crazy, anger-driven, or unhealthily obsessed with the meaning of a green hat. Now it’s time to honor Dave’s last great summer.
Maybe to summarize the criminal record. Most recently, Warner was accused by Mitchell Johnson of making the summer all about him and his own pampered retirement. These accusations only add up if you start from the position of pre-existing hatred of Warner and/or having recently received a rude text message from him.
Warner’s form was mediocre. But it’s just good enough. You could take a look at his overall career record. He was suspected to be a domestic bully, with an average age of 58 in Australia and 31 overseas. But Warner is an all-rounder in the modern sense, successful in all formats and not in all conditions: Test average of 45, T20 World Cup player, ODI World Cup winner. Opening is difficult. Warner did it very well.
Then of course we have the bad stuff. Warner was the key figure in the sandpaper scandal. But there are some strange parts here too. Australia’s bowlers have repeatedly said that none of them knew anything about Warner being out there alone, trying to induce a reverse swing without telling the guys who should actually be changing their lengths and holding the ball properly.
This seems like a strange thing for Warner to do. Tip for future ballplayers: tell the bowlers, otherwise it won’t work. Still, it must be true, because despite losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, Warner never ratted out anyone, never hinted at any major complicity, just accepted his (harsh) punishment.
There is something else. This was a very special type of fraud: team fraud. For Warner there were no runs, no personal glory, no money, no more staying at the gate. He cheated to win, cheated so his teammates could get wickets. Is there a higher, nobler form of fraud? Maybe not. But if so, it would probably be this.
What else did he do? Was an idiot and an idiot on the field. Beat Joe Root on a drunken night after Australia lost the Champions Trophy at Edgbaston, with Root messing around next to his table. Mmmm. Bad. I guess.
But Warner is also particularly sharp and interesting in press conferences and far from the identity of a criminal/idiot. The first time I saw him in person, he was standing on a table at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium, addressing a room full of at least 500 people after scoring his first hundred in professional cricket for the Delhi Daredevils, and all you could think was : Yes, that is talent, that is the future.
He has proven that. The final thing about Warner is that we will miss him, Test cricket and the Ashes will miss him. Warner, who was never really old-fashioned and was initially portrayed as a time traveler from the post-Test future, has proven to be a keeper of the faith, the old sense of size and breadth, heroes and villains, unmistakably theatrical.
Channel 7 produced a hilariously dark four-minute ad before the Pakistan series, pointing out that you can’t be an Australian if you don’t love Test cricket (Amazon now has the rights to the World Cup), and getting bold and hoarse about what’s to come Sommer dealt with funeral terms like talking about the death of a beloved dog.
Farewell to Warner will sell this summer of testing, even if the summer of testing continues to shrink. There are so many villains in sports these days, from Tom Harrison to Aramco. For all his faults, Warner has an unlikely purity even in his villainous persona. Will this space ever be filled again?
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