In the 1990s, it was Merv Hughes. At the start of the century, it was Ricky Ponting. There's no doubt who the so-called "pantomime villain" is in the Australia squad during the current Ashes series. David Warner expected a hostile reception at Old Trafford in his first start for Australia since returning from a suspension for punching England's Joe Root in a late-night bar incident in June. And he got it. "I actually liked the trumpeter playing the Rocky theme song," Warner said. "It was actually entertaining for myself. I had a little chuckle. It's not every day you walk out on the field and get booed. But you've got to embrace it."
Warner made only 10 in the first innings of the third test but was going well on 41 in his second innings when he hooked Tim Bresnan in the air toward the boundary. Who was there to take the diving catch? Root, of course. "Yeah, hooked another one to Rooty," he joked, reviving memories of his now infamous altercation with England's baby-faced opener in an Australia-themed bar after a Champions Trophy match. "Out of all the people in the field, it was quite comical. I'll probably read about it on Twitter a bit later."
As Warner made his lonely walk back to the pavilion, jeers came from all corners of Old Trafford. It was a football-type atmosphere in the usually refined environs of a test-cricket ground. He's had to live with it all match and will probably receive the same treatment at Durham next week and the Oval for the fifth test, if he keeps his place. "I'm not well liked at the moment but this morning was quite entertaining down there," Warner said. "There were a few hungover people and a few voices ... speaking their minds. "Obviously it's all my fault," he added. "You've got to embrace it. Someone does (normally) get picked out and this time it's me. I've got to keep my head down and focus on what my task ahead is, and that's scoring runs."
Warner hasn't been far from the headlines this year. Memories are still fresh from Warner's Twitter tirade in May, sparked by seeing his photo printed alongside a story about corruption in the Indian Premier League. Warner lashed out at two senior cricket journalists in an expletive-filled rant, receiving a fine of 5,750 Australian dollars. He apologized but landed himself in further trouble a month later by drunkenly attacking Root in the early hours after Australia's 48-run loss to England in a Champions Trophy group match. He was suspended until the first Ashes test and fined 11,500 Australian dollars. For now, Warner is just trying to keep himself out of trouble. "I'm just enjoying being back in the team. All the misdemeanors are behind me at the moment and I'm just enjoying playing cricket," he said.
And Root hasn't passed up an opportunity to give Warner a bit of a ribbing during the third test. "Yeah, Joey, he said to me: 'It's been a long couple of months, hasn't it?'" Warner recalled. "I just turned around and had a little smile. I've got a long memory, so it's alright."