Khawaja: There’s always been a bit of cowboy in David Warner

    It may be 30 years since I first played a game of cricket against David Warner but I can still recall having this precise thought watching his all action performance for Sydney Coastal against my Randwick under-10s team.For some reason the opposition attack decided to target my hips and it felt like money for jam, one of those days where I was hitting plenty of balls towards to leg-side fence.Davey being Davey, he asked to be moved to right where the action was and I remember him diving and scrambling left and right in the outfield, giving everything.Has anything changed?Next thing he would be bowling his seamers. I remember thinking “who is this kid?’’ even though we had met earlier because our older brothers, who are the same age, had known each other.Eventually I joined his team and we became the big dogs in our rep team.Occasionally we look back and joke how on earth this has happened. All those years ago we were opening the bowling together, batting Nos 3 and 4 and just trying to hog everything.Now, 30 years on, we get to walk out together in his 100th Test. Incredible.Today’s milestone is all the more remarkable because initially there were plenty of people who never thought he would play one major red ball game never mind 100 Tests.I was there in NSW when no-one gave him a chance to play red ball cricket. “He just plays too many shots’ was the common cry.Then a few of us went on to play for Australia and spots opened up and the word was “he can only bat five or six.’’But because we had a decent middle order the cry became “look, we are just going to have to open with him.’’Nothing came easily. But you could tell after about 10 games of red ball cricket he was going to make it.THE KIDEven as a kid Davey was in everything and not all the cherries he propelled had six stitches.He went through a stage where he would chuck cherries at some of our teammates, leaving a stain which is particularly noticeable on whites.Our teammates mums would blow up and urge Davey’s mum Lorraine to tell him to stop throwing cherries.One mum he never fell out with was mine. Mum loves Davey. Even now when she sees Davey’s daughters Ivy, Indi and Isla she just sees him.She had a name for him – Shaytan, the Urdu term for Devil. She means it in an endearing way of course.He was always the sort of kid – and still is – who acts first then handles the fallout later.Davey went to Randwick Boys High which was very multicultural so a lot of his close mates were from Bangladesh, India or south-east Asia.He has always been very good to me and respectful of my culture and understood how I struggled coming up through the ranks.As a youngster I was better against the fast bowlers. He was a little bit scared of them and better against spin.Honestly, he just annihilated spinners. First ball he would just try and hit them for six. You would see these young spinners just melt away.THE EAGLE EYEDavey’s attention to detail is staggering. Absolutely nothing gets past him.We had a funny exchange when we were walking to the wicket to play the West Indies in the Perth Test.By that stage I am normally consumed by the thought of facing the first ball but they flashed our records up on the scoreboard. I didn’t even notice it but the man who misses nothing noted that my batting average (47.41) had just crept past his (46.28).He said “oh, you’ve passed me’’ and I chipped back with “but you are about to play your 100th Test and I have just passed 50 – I’ll take those 50 Tests if you want to swap!’’Imagine that. Two batsmen walking to the middle for the first Test of the summer and we are debating the merits of a quirky stat.I wouldn’t change my journey for anything but I wanted to pump his tyres up and I was thinking “you are David Warner . you have had an incredible career and nothing that happens now really matters.’’It always amazes me that whatever ground we go to he knows exactly where all the players’ partners’ boxes are.You will be having a mid-pitch conversation in a Test match and talking about someone and he will say “yeah, he’s just sitting up there.’’ I will say “how do you know? Are you concentrating on the game?’’THE GENEROUS MANI have long considered Davey the most generous cricketer I have played with.People don’t see the caring side of him. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have seen him pick up a bar tab and you will say “mate you don’t have to do that’’ and he’d say “it’s done … all good.’’If he has a bit of love for you he will do anything for you. It’s one of the reasons why I have been such good friends with him for a long time.He will also admit it when he does something wrong. You will hear him say “sorry, my bad.’’I have spoken to his friends outside cricket and I know how much he is done for them.WORKING CLASS ROOTSI joke with him that “I am street smart and book smart but you are super street-smart.’’He’s no bookworm but don’t worry – he has always got his head to the ground. If there is something awry he’ll spot it.He grew up next to a housing commission and did it tough, just like myself.You simply cannot be naive in that environment. You couldn’t trust anyone.A lot of that vibe transfers from life into cricket. Davey has had to be cagey and smart otherwise people would have walked all over him. If a news story breaks in cricket he is always all over it. His brain never stops. He has an incredibly high awareness.He was a very confident young fellow. He had that bit of bravado and outward confidence. I was confident too but in a less obvious way and it traces back to our different cultures.One thing I think is that what you saw during his career in terms of his on-field behaviour was how people wanted him to play rather than how he wanted to play himself.He used to be told all the time “go out there and be brash, be in their faces.’’ Being the teammate he is he would say “yeah, I will do that.’’OUR FRIENDSHIPI have no problems in calling him out. If there’s something I feel is not right I will say “Davey, c’mon … that’s not cool.’’But the older he is getting the less that is happening. We have had that sort of old relationship where we joke that I am the only one he listens to if I tell him to pull his head in.I call him Mr 50% because if you believe 50% of everything Davey says you’ll be 100% correct.THE BATSMANI honestly believe the most underrated “silent stat’’ in cricket is where a player bats. In cricket we always talk about averages and centuries and strike rates but unless you open the batting you can never fully understand how incredibly testing it is.Matthew Hayden averaged 50 as an opener and Justin Langer 45 opening for much of his career. They batted when batting was toughest every single time. They didn’t get cheap runs. For Davey’s average to hover not far below 50 for the majority of his career is just extraordinary, particularly at an incredible strike rate of 71.I’ve seen from close range the effect Warner has on bowlers. Balls that I would let go outside off stump he will attack with relish. That rattles bowlers. I only learnt relatively late in my career that if you can put the pressure back on the bowler you can get a lot more freebies.This is something I have noticed that is a trait of Davey and almost every great batsman through the ages.Davey has been through a lot over his career plenty of ups and a plenty of downs. One thing I know for sure is when things looked most bleak such as after the South African series and his ball tampering sanctions he learned who his friends are and who they aren’t.And I know he places an extremely high value on those who are which is fair enough.Because one thing in life I know for sure, there is no such thing as a perfect human.Don’t be fooled.

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