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David Warner's time has come

John Townsend

Crystal ball time.

Justin Langer was 36 years and 45 days old the last time he walked out to bat for Australia.

David Warner was 36 years and 45 days old when he walked off Adelaide Oval for the last time last week.

And Warner should further replicate Langer 16 years ago by farewelling Test cricket at the SCG on the final day of a home series.

Don’t be surprised if Warner mirrors Langer by announcing during the MCG Test next week that he intends to retire after his final appearance at his home ground.

It would be his 101st Test – similar to Langer’s 105 – during a career that has amassed 7922 runs at 45.52 to compare closely to his fellow left-hander’s 7696 at 45.27.

As Ricky Ponting said during commentary at the Gabba, Warner has to be as realistic as possible about his Test exit.

Few Australians this century have truly controlled their final day under the baggy green.

It is a list that could be counted on the fingers, of, at most, two hands.

Damien Martyn shocked the cricket world with his sudden departure midway through the 2006-07 Ashes while Steve Waugh, backed by the weight of News Corp’s influential newspapers, was granted a farewell tour.

And undisputed champions Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist and Mike Hussey walked when it appeared they still had plenty of petrol in their tanks.

Even 100-Test stars Ian Healy and Mark Waugh found they had a used-by date.

Warner still has control of his departure – the legacy of those 99 Tests – but the clear and obvious decline of his batting at Test level means that privilege is not likely to extend beyond the home summer.

“I would hate to see him get to an Indian tour or at the start of the Ashes tour and then get the tap on the shoulder,” Ponting said.

Ponting knows what that means.

He was captain in 2006-07 when the three greats –Warne, Glenn McGrath and Langer – retired at the end of the Ashes whitewash.

But Warne was the only one of that trio whose departure was wholly his own decision.

A myriad of books, podcasts and interviews over a decade and a half have shed little light on the real story behind those retirements.

The strong mail at the time was that the 36-year-old McGrath had been told by a national selector that he could not be guaranteed selection after the Ashes while there were also compelling suggestions that only one of the openers - Langer or Matthew Hayden – would play beyond the series.

As it turned out, Hayden was hit on the knee in front of middle before he scored at the MCG that series, was reprieved by umpire Rudi Koertzen and went on 153 and, eventually, another two years in Test ranks.

And Langer? He announced his retirement a day or two later after apparently having a road to Damascus experience with his father at a Melbourne café.

Warner has been an outstanding player for more than a decade, a game-changer whose impact has coincided with Australia’s dominance in all three formats.

But there is a saying, often attributed to Ian Chappell but used previously by Richie Benaud, and no doubt others before him, that is applicable to the opener.

It goes: “You should leave so people ask ‘Why did you go?’ not ‘Why don’t you go?’.”

IMAGE: Getty Images

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