Nicknames tend to stick around in more people’s minds and for much longer than you’d hope for. Your schoolmates might still call you “Poopy” because you pooped once in your pants in fifth grade. Or “Ace” for being the topper of your college, even though you are nowhere the ace in your professional career everyone thought you would become. Or a “Savior” because you are the one who is more often getting your colleagues out of a jam.
As David Warner retires, the defining turn of his career was when his nickname among his teammates went from ‘Bull’ to ‘Hum-Bull’ (as in humble).
Although the new nickname of ‘Hum-bull’ given to him in 2019, only a few months after his comeback from a year-long ban, didn’t quite catch up with everyone as the ‘Bull’ had done, it was indicative largely of the persona and the changes in Warner the person that were taking place. If his overdoing of Instagram dance videos on Indian songs and morphing his face with Indian actors was already bordering cringe and dramatic, just like his saga of losing his Baggy Green cap right before his farewell Test match.
Upon his return to professional cricket following his ban, David Warner still hit the ball with the same fierce strength and aggression. But he was no longer the guy who once punched the babyfaced Joe Root, of all people he could have punched in the English team. Or the guy who marched a shocking verbal lone-man attack in the Kingsmead dressing room alley on Quinton de Kock, leaving the South African with nightmares. Or the guy who would skip a game to watch a horse race. Or the one who would be in the face of the opposition, if it even meant taking on the new face of world cricket, Virat Kohli, when the Indian superstar became the Test skipper for the first time.
Or, the worst mistake of Warner’s career, the guy who coaxed Cameron Bancroft to tamper with the ball with a sandpaper during the 2018 Newlands Test against South Africa.
David Warner: two personalities separated by a year-long ban
The ‘Hum-Bull’ now, though, was all smiles. He took the taunts of the English crowd about Sandpaper by showing his empty pockets. Danced as much as he could and got the Indian fans revving up. Stood up with the domestic and female players against Cricket Australia (CA), their employer, when they were about to cut revenues. Instead of the ultra-manly aggression, there were a lot of laughter and self-degrading jokes.
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David Warner, the first Australian men’s player ever to play international cricket without any first-class experience, goes out as an all-format legend, though he remains available to play in this year’s T20 World Cup.
Among the Aussies, only Ricky Ponting, with his 70 centuries, has more international hundreds than Warner’s 49. No Australian Test opener scored more runs than Warner, who had the misfortune of opening in what has been the toughest era for Test openers in the 21st century.
However, for what saga unfolded after the Sandpaper scandal, Warner became a target man not just for the English crowd, but for his compatriots. Cue in Mitchell Johnson taking a brutal target at Warner right before his farewell series. It is not arguable to wonder if Warner remains the most unliked Australian player among his countrymen as he steps away from the game.
Personally, I’d remember Australia’s march to the World Cup 2023 trophy embodied by David Warner’s energetic fielding efforts throughout the tournament, particularly in the final, where he didn’t give an inch to India.
Warner himself might call it a blessing in disguise that it needed a year-long ban, the ignominy from all over the world, including the then Australian PM, for him to go from the ‘Bull’ to ‘Hum-Bull’.
A great of the game with the bat throughout his career – sure. But if you were to pick a role model in Warner, it would certainly be the ‘Hum-Bull’ version.