David Warner, the former Sunrisers Hyderabad captain, was batting on 92 for Delhi Capitals against his old team at Brabourne Stadium with the last over from the fastest bowler this IPL, Umran Malik, to come. Only two strikes would have taken him to his fifth IPL hundred. But, he was happy to be at the non-striker’s end, enjoying the batting of West Indies big-hitter Rovman Powell, cheering him on to score maximum runs.
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The first ball of the 20th over was whacked over long-off for a six by the Jamaican. More than the striker, Warner was overjoyed. He egged Powell on to go even further and hit with as much power as he could. The second ball was a dot. Warner was not even looking at his personal score and the thought of reaching the three-figure mark was not on his mind. At least that’s what we believe, going by what Powell later said: “I asked him if he wanted a single to try and get a hundred, and he said, ‘that is not how I am going to do it’. He said that I should try to smack it as hard as I can and as far as I can. And, I did that.”
The next three balls, two of which were delivered at 155-157kmph speed, were punished for fours by Powell. Warner was stranded on 92 as the last ball went for one bye. Powell notched up his maiden IPL fifty (67 not out) and shared 122 unseparated runs for the fourth wicket with Warner, learning invaluable lessons in the company of the 35-year-old New South Welshman.
For Warner, what mattered most was the team total and the end result, which DC eventually won by 21 runs, and the crucial two points that kept them in the race for the Playoffs, taking their points tally to two digits and also sending signals to the other teams that DC are also in the reckoning.
In an interview with DC assistant coach and his former Australian team-mate Shane Watson, Warner said: “I did not need extra motivation (against SRH), that’s for sure. There’s always fire in the belly. For me, it was about deciding who my match-ups were and who I was going to take on. Coming from Australia, fast bowlers are the key for me. If you get into the right positions, back your instincts and the game plan, you will have success. I was going with the pace of the ball.”
It may have been a satisfying knock for Warner, coming against his former team with whom he was so attached to from 2014 to 2021, playing in 95 matches and amassing 4,014 runs with 40 fifties and two hundreds, averaging 49.56 and striking at 142.59 runs every 100 balls faced. He played an incredible role in SRH’s only IPL title in 2016, leading the team from the front with 848 runs from 17 innings at 60.57 and nine fifties. Such has been Warner’s impact for SRH in the years in which them that he is their highest run-getter in IPL history. Shikhar Dhawan, another former SRH great, is second, nearly 1,500 runs behind.
Add to it 1,791 runs in 63 matches he has scored for Delhi Capitals for whom he debuted in 2009 in South Africa and continued till 2013 before rejoining the franchise this year, and Warner is the fourth highest scorer in IPL history behind Virat Kohli (6,499 in 218 matches), Shikhar Dhawan (6,153 in 202) and Rohit Sharma (5,809 in 223). With a tally of 5,805 runs in 158 IPL matches (note: the stats are before the start of IPL match No. 52 on Saturday), Warner is the leading overseas batsman in IPL history, much more than the likes of IPL legends AB de Villiers (5,162 in 184) and Chris Gayle (4,965 in 142), to name just a couple, have.
It came as a surprise last year when Warner was stripped of SRH captaincy and eventually dropped from the playing 11. What the inside story is behind SRH letting go of Warner and having nothing to do with him, nobody knows except the franchise owners and team management. Their assistant coach Brad Haddin, another Australian, said that it was not for cricketing reasons.
Haddin, the former Australian wicket-keeper, said in an interview last year, “…circumstances were out of all our control, even the coaching staff, for some reason he didn’t play. It wasn’t because he was out of form. All he needed was some match time. He just needed some time to spend in the middle to get back into the rhythm of the game again.”
Warner himself spoke of how hurt he was to be sidelined by the franchise he led to their only IPL title victory. “Whatever may have been the reason for me not finding a spot in an IPL team, I can tell you I was training the hardest I ever did. I didn’t miss a single day. I was batting extremely well in the nets, and it was only a matter of time before it all started to work out. So yes, while it hurt, I knew I will have another opportunity,” Warner had said late last year. “Sport is a great leveller, and if you are true to the sport and keep working hard, you will always have a second chance. I just wanted to keep working the hardest and stay true. I am glad it worked out for me.”
It did work out for Warner, and he did get a second chance at Delhi Capitals, who acquired him for ₹6.25 Cr in this year’s mega auctions. Warner has already played match-winning roles in this IPL, three of his four fifties being in winning causes while he top-scored for his team while chasing Kolkata Knight Riders’ 146 to win by four wickets.
Needless to say, Warner is DC’s highest run scorer this season and fourth in the Orange Cap list with 356 runs at 59.33 and a strike rate of 156.82. Orange Cap was Warner’s for three seasons – 2015, 2017 and 2019 and he was second highest scorer behind Virat Kohli in 2016. With a minimum of four matches and a couple more if DC make it to the Playoffs, Warner does have a chance for his fourth Orange Cap.
Warner has worked his way up to becoming an IPL legend from the time he joined Delhi Daredevils in 2009. He was a daredevil, true to the franchise name, a fighter, a go-getter, as we have seen him rise in the ranks, be it for Australia or for his IPL franchise.
“David is certainly up there among the best and still going strong,” said a former Delhi Capitals official.
Perhaps, Warner may not be spoken in the same breath as some of the other IPL overseas superstars like Gayle, de Villiers, Lasith Malinga or even Rashid Khan and others from the West Indies including Andre Russell, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard. Perhaps, it may be because of his streetfighter characteristics, perhaps it is because of the controversies he was involved in including being banned by IPL for 2018 for his involvement in Sandpapergate in a Test in South Africa. Perhaps, it is because of the disciplinary reasons for which SRH left him out halfway through last season.
Former Daredevils captain Virender Sehwag even revealed that Warner “partied more than believing in practice or playing matches and in the first year (2009), he had a fight with a few players, so we sent him back for the last two matches”.
If the reason why Warner is not spoken in the same length as the others is his lack of discipline towards practice sessions, then he has learnt from his mistakes, mellowed down and shown maturity. Warner works hard at the nets. He said after his latest IPL innings that he practices switch hit at the nets and also bats right-handed in the nets sometimes against the spinners. Observing him over the years and talking to his coach in the Australian team, consultant Sridharan Sriram, Warner leaves no stone unturned when it comes to preparation.
The DC official added: “David is a very competitive player, a very good guy to have around. He is a street-smart cricketer. Before you realise, he has already set it up for the team. He is one of the greatest exponents of switch hit along with Glenn Maxwell and Kevin Pietersen.”
The official also did not read too much into what Sehwag said. “They are professional cricketers and with the Australian culture, they enjoy their cricket. Consistency on the field is what matters. Except for last year in the IPL, he has always been on top. Overseas cricketers are fun loving. You can’t hold it (partying) against the players. After all, initially, IPL was known for the after-match parties.”
Is it not said that practice makes a man perfect? And, when Warner has been scoring consistently for his franchise and for Australia in all the three formats, he sure has been working hard in the nets.
The DC official said about Warner: “David is a fun-loving guy. As long as you are performing on the field, everything else doesn’t matter. He has been a match-winner over the years. He gets his runs very quickly. He is a brilliant fielder. When it comes to crunch games, he stands up and gets counted.”
A lot is still at stake for DC in this tournament, and Warner will ensure that he keeps his team in the game all the time. Be it scoring runs like he has been doing, be it cheering for his batting partner or playing the role of a senior and ensuring the team is doing all things right. Delhi Capitals are lucky to have Warner right at the top of their batting order. If not already an IPL legend, he is certainly one in the making.
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