SYDNEY: Former South African captain Graeme Smith has some advice for Australia coach Justin Langer – make sure David Warner’s ego is managed if he starts to “get bigger than everybody else”.
The polarising opener, on the comeback trail after a one-year ban for ball-tampering, has been in red-hot form in the Indian Premier League ahead of his expected recall to the national side for the World Cup in England and Wales.
But some commentators believe Warner’s return could be disruptive to the team, which is now resurgent after a run of poor results, and that he needs to be managed carefully.
Smith, who skippered his country for more than a decade, said while he admired Warner’s batting, he had “pissed a lot of people off” throughout his career.
“I don’t know,” he told Fox Sports on Tuesday evening when asked if he would have any issue in welcoming Warner back to the Australian team.
“It’s difficult to know what it’s like behind the scenes, but he’s always been an incredible cricketer,” added Smith, who played 117 Tests before retiring in 2014.
“Especially when he bats, he bats with that driven nature, that intensity, ego to perform. And he’s an excellent cricketer.
“I think where David has been throughout his career is that he’s pissed a lot of people off. He’s just that type of guy. I think at the moment he needs Australian cricket more than they need him.”
Warner is suspected of instigating a plot to use sandpaper to alter the ball in the now infamous Cape Town Test last year. He has long been a divisive figure.
And Smith believes his behaviour needs to be monitored closely.
“I think he’s very driven, I think he wants to do well, he wants to prove his worth again. And I think David Warner in that position is probably a good guy to have in your environment,” he said.
“It’s when he starts to get bigger than everybody else then probably management needs to be ready for that.
“Guys like Langer and whoever is captaining the side going forward need to ensure they stay on top of that and manage that space and that ego well going forward.”
The reintegration of Warner and co-conspirator Steve Smith has already begun with the pair meeting the one-day team after their bans expired late last month.
Australian cricket chief Kevin Roberts recently said team-mates don’t always need to be “best mates”.
“In any workplace, you don’t need to be best mates with everyone, but there needs to be a foundation of respect and I think there is growing respect there,” he said.