It is officially 'Warner week' in Australian cricket as the veteran opener readies himself for his 112th and last Test match. Pat Cummins' pre-match press conference had the expected dose of nostalgia as the Australian captain recalled Warner's buccaneering entry into the Test scene, scoring at a fast pace and turning games around in the space of a session, a quality very few openers possessed at the time of Warner's debut in 2011.
Wish everybody was watching Test cricket: Pat Cummins
Twelve years on, Warner's impending exit is engulfed by a larger narrative around the health of the format. The flames of this debate were fanned last week by South Africa naming seven uncapped players, which includes the captain of the squad Neil Brand, for their Test tour of New Zealand. The rest of the Proteas' Test regulars will remain at home to partake in the second season of the SA20, a strong example of the shifting sands of the sport towards the shorter, more lucrative formats.
Cummins admitted to being worried about the future of the Test format at times despite the summer's two games against Pakistan being very well attended. "It's a tough one. Every summer feels bigger than the last here in Australia, but obviously going overseas, that's not the case," he said on the eve of the New Year's Test in Sydney.
"In some regards, I am a little bit worried at times, but at the same time T20 cricket has never had more supporters and I don't think there have been more supporters in the world watching cricket. As a Test cricket lover, I wish everybody was watching Test cricket, but I've never seen cricket stronger than what it is at the moment.
"My hopes are that it's [Test cricket] even stronger than it is now, in 10 years time or 20 years time. I grew up absolutely loving Test cricket. I think it does go through phases. I know the South African team aren't sending their strongest side. I'm hoping it's a phase. I think in some regards leading to this Test summer, some of some of the question marks were against Pakistan and West Indies.
"We've had two fantastic Test matches against Pakistan, really well supported, big crowds. So I don't think it's in as dramatic decline as sometimes it gets spoken about. But I think there is an issue just with the amount of other cricket out there, obviously competition for talent is higher than it's ever been."
The Australia captain acknowledged that the World Test Championship had allayed some of the issues of context around Test matches. This Sydney Test, for one, would have been a victim of the dead-rubber syndrome in the past with Australia having already sealed the series with wins in Perth and Melbourne, but an equal number of WTC points are on offer this week for both sides to contest for.
"Now that the World Test Championship is there. Every Test match is important. We've got a couple of points to make up from some over rates in England. Every game has context and it's a home Test match, every Test match you play is big, but every one in Australia is even bigger.
"Ideally we find a way to make it work where we've got 15 or 20 Test playing nations who are all really strong. I understand there are lots of different challenges, so I feel really privileged that in Australia it's a priority and it's really well-supported every time we play. I don't know what the silver bullet is, but it'd be great if there was one."
Turning the attention back to 'Warner week', Cummins admitted that a realistic and slow changing of the guard was imminent post Warner's departure although that transition is likely to be quicker for the ODI team that recently captured the sixth World Cup crown for Australia.
"I think Marnus is the only one in his 20s now which he said a few times last week. Realistically there is going to be some rate of change over the next couple of years, we probably thought it was going to happen a little bit sooner but everyone is hanging on," Cummins said.
"After this block of Test matches, we don't play again until next summer. So I don't see anything in the immediate future that is going to change. There's been some great opportunities for the young guys in Aussie A, even some ODI tours where a couple of the first XI guys have rested. I'm sure there will be a bigger change in the next couple of years and I'm sure we'll be ready for it.
"This Test side has been consistent so there's only been, sorry this XI, so there's only been three or four guys that have played in the past few years. One-day cricket is a bit different and even in things like the Big Bash you get to play high-quality games in front of crowds, so that step up in some regards is more seamless in the white-ball format."