They have been disjointed without the 34-year-old, whose absence has been felt even more dearly because of the indifferent form of the team’s other senior batsman, Steve Smith.
Australia hope the return of Warner, who posted 786 runs at an average of 131 across five Tests last summer, will restore order with the series delicately poised at 1-1, taking the pressure off Marnus Labuschagne and Smith below him with his rate of scoring as much as the score itself.
The question is at what cost?
In the days ahead Australian must determine whether or not Warner, if he turns out in Sydney from next Thursday, will be risking further injury to the groin that has sidelined him since he had to be helped off the field, and then into a car for scans, at the SCG on November 29.
With naturally competitive urges, the batsman himself will be hard to hold back. But sports physios will tell you groin injuries are notorious for hanging around when players return too early.
The chances of a recurrence or an aggravation of the injury could be mitigated by Warner fielding at first slip, as McDonald indicated he probably would, and by tempering the intensity of his characteristically explosive running between the wickets.
However, the last thing Warner and Australia would want is for him to be undone by something like an unexpected change of direction in the field which leaves him having to rehabilitate for another extended period.
“That’s a real clear option that he may not be 100 per cent fit,” McDonald said. “If he’s 90, 95 per cent fit, and that conversation is that he’s fit enough to be able to perform his duties for the team, then I’m sure that will be conversation the coach [Justin Langer] has with the player.
“Most times Justin’s pretty open with the players, giving them accountability around that. We’ll get a good steer on that when [Warner] comes into camp for the training on the 2nd and 3rd [of January]. I think it will play out in front of our eyes. Once we get our eyes on him, put him through some specific tests … if you want to use that word … I think the information will become clear.”
What team physios will also tell you is that in many Tests there are instances where players who are underdone or not fully recovered from a particular ailment, or are carrying a chronic injury, take the field successfully.
With Warner signalling he should be right to go after an exhaustive rehab process, Langer and Australia will be banking on this being one of those occasions.
“He’s very optimistic he should be ready to go, which is great news,” McDonald said.
“We’re really excited to have him back. I’m sure he’s excited to come back into that group as well. There is nothing worse than being injured when you’re at the top of your game as David has been for a period of time.”
Chris Barrett is Chief Sports Reporter of The Sydney Morning Herald.