(Reuters) – Australia opener David Warner was once called “Bull” for his rampaging cricket but has earned a new nickname at the World Cup after returning from a 12-month ball-tampering ban — “Hum-bull”.
Warner struck a tournament-high 166 to set up Australia’s 48-run victory over Bangladesh on Thursday and now leads the runs list with 447.
The 32-year-old lefthander has gone about his business effectively but quietly, avoiding on-field confrontations and letting his bat do the talking.
It has reminded fans of a similarly well-behaved period after Warner got married and became a father in 2014, and tried to avoid trouble in the wake of multiple code of conduct violations.
His team mates called him “The Reverend” then but it was only a temporary deviation from “The Bull”, as Warner cast off his tranquil persona in 2017 to become more of a confrontational attack dog when Joe Root’s England toured Australia for the Ashes series.
Like former captain Steve Smith and test batsman Cameron Bancroft, Warner’s life was turned upside-down by the ball-tampering fiasco in Cape Town. He was banned from leadership roles for life within the Australian team.
After he and Smith were welcomed back to the Australia fold, coach Justin Langer warned that they would need to learn “humility”, having once been the big dogs in the dressing room.
Warner said his year out of the international game and as a travelling batsman in global Twenty20 competitions had given him a new perspective on life outside the bubble.
“I think I was on a good behaviour bond for two years, I think it was, if that’s what you want to call it, with the ICC (International Cricket Council),” Warner said of his time as ‘The Reverend’.
“And I couldn’t really do anything on the field and I’m at that point as well at the moment.
“It’s a different game. We’ve played so much cricket over the last 12 months with a lot of different people, especially the Bangladesh guys. Getting to know a lot of them as well has been great.
“It just opens your eyes to a new world. It’s just normal me now.”
Despite scoring 166 off 147 balls, Warner’s runs have not come easily at times, and his watchful starts have not gone unnoticed by fans more used to him swinging with abandon.
Fellow opener and captain Aaron Finch had been a reassuring presence and helped Warner grind through the difficult periods with words of patience, he said.
“I don’t mean to go out there and bat slow,” Warner added.
“I got frustrated against India. I got frustrated against Afghanistan. And then today, Finchy kept telling me to hang in there and bat deep and bat time.
“And that was in like the eighth or ninth over. Because it’s generally not my game to stick there, and I usually try and go after it a little bit.
“Must be a bit more maturity, I think.”
Australia next face England at Lord’s on Tuesday.
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)