Text messages from lawyers the morning of a match regarding things he “didn’t want to think about” were clouding David Warner’s mind as he fought to prove he could still cut it at test level.
In the aftermath of his unforgettable MCG double-hundred, one scored after enduring the “horrible” feeling of full body cramps, Warner revealed the full extent of not just his enduring battle in Melbourne, but of the off-field battle he has now declared is over, finally, having pushed him to breaking point during a home summer which had always been his happy place.
Warner was beaming after taking out man-of-the-match honours in his 100th test, an effort which came with a special team presentation in the changerooms after the day four finish, and a not-so-special presentation from Marnus Labuschagne, a reminder of his day two run-out.
The epic nature of his innings in the baking Melbourne heat silenced so many doubters, served as a reminder of his run-scoring prowess, and set up a test win for his team.
But getting to that place, that joyous place after a big personal achievement had taken some effort, emotional and physical, an effort Warner laid bare.
The push, started by others on his behalf, to have a lifetime leadership ban for his role in the sandpaper scandal in 2018, became a fight Warner didn’t think he’d have to have, complicated by Cricket Australia’s inability to make a decision, to farm it out to an independent panel, a panel which turned the whole thing into a circus.
He was in the headlines, not for making runs, so was his wife, Candice, who also wore public criticism in an ugly encounter with some spectators in Adelaide.
It was less than ideal preparation for Warner, who had struggled for runs in test matches in 2022, who hadn’t made a test hundred for nearly three years, and it made things harder than they should have been.
“I think it just takes its toll mentally I think like when we play big series … the whole build up and suspense and we’ve gone through a (T20) World Cup and then we’re going into a test series without playing any red ball cricket as well,” Warner said on Thursday.
“And then I’ve got all that other stuff in the background happening. You know, I get a message the night before a Test, like these are things that you don’t want in the back of your mind, day two waking up, your lawyer texts you about something that has to be spoken about.
“These are things that you don’t want in your mind when you’re going to training or you’re going to the game so, for me it was just trying to get in the right frame of mind and I just couldn’t. It was it was difficult.
“And then when you’re out in the middle you’re trying to be as positive as you can. And as I said I was hitting them as well as I thought I could but I just getting no luck and you make your own luck in this game.”
His MCG innings, however, was less about luck and more about the sort of determination which has been a hallmark of the boy from Matraville’s career.
Not only was it stinking hot, South African quick Anrich Nortje delivered what Warner called the fastest spell of bowling he’s ever faced, a full over of deliveries exceeding 150kmh, including a 154kmh rocket which smashed in to his thumb, hard for eyes impacted by waterfalls of sweat to handle.
Warner went down more than once with cramp, and declared he had “absolutely nothing” when he reached 200, his trademark leap in to the air bringing about even more damage, which lingered even after he stopped batting.
“I only did the (celebration) on my knees because I knew I couldn’t jump and then I said stuff that I’m going to try and jump and lo and behold my calf went on me that was the last thing to go on me and that was it,” Warner said. He walked from the field not long after, unable to bat on.
“I had absolutely nothing. It started in my adductor early on, I had some pickle juice and then my forearm went first and I took my arm guard off that I normally wear and it just started going through the whole entire body.
“I think I swept one and my hamstring went and then from there like it was yeah, it was horrible. It was a horrible feeling. I’ve never experienced those kind of cramps before and if you could have a camera in the change room for the next hour after I was off it was comical.”
Warner broke out in a laugh as the image of him, covered in icepacks, cramping uncontrollably, came to mind, able then to smile about his own suffering.
It’s that sort of mood, smiling, that Warner wants to live in now too as he enters the twilight of his test career.
He’s shelved any notion of “picking fights” with Cricket Australia any more, preferring to move past the battles, to focus on conquering mountains in India and England, with the bat, knowing he still does have what it takes to batter the world’s best bowling.
“I‘m not looking to pick fights with CA, that’s for sure. You know, I’m just glad that whatever has happened has been dealt with,” he said.
“I don‘t have to worry about that. Not even thinking about it.
“I still haven’t sat down with (CA boss Nick Hockley) to talk about it after what happened. That can happen in due course.
“I’m in a happy place.
“The game owes you nothing. And you know, as I said, fortunate enough this game actually paid off, which I’‘m really happy about.”