David Warner is a man transformed. Into the third decade of his existence, he finally seems to have discovered a new purpose. His re-emergence as a cricketer is helping Sunrisers Hyderabad chart a new course in the ninth season of theIndian Premier League. Only time will tell how far the team can go, but its forlorn fans have begun to dream again. Thanks to Warner’s consistency and captaincy, the foundation for a stirring Sunrisers revival have been laid.
“The price of greatness is responsibility,” said an immortal Winston Churchill. Warner seems to have embraced that philosophy this season, as he walks the Sunrisers out to a new dawn from the wastelands of wilderness. On Saturday against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Warner led from the front yet again, dominating with the bat to help Sunrisers score a consummate victory over a formidable Royal Challengers team.
The Orange Cap has already changed heads a few times this season, but there is no denying the fact that it sits rather well on Warner. He has marshalled his resources well, making the most of the bowling skills of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mustafizur Rahman and Moises Henriques. With the bat, Warner is wielding the willow like a warrior — his 58-ball-92 turned the score into a mountain too high even for a team with the batting resources of RCB. His success at the top of the order has set the tone for Sunrisers, and given a new voice to the parched throats of their fans in Hyderabad.
Four of Warner’s five fifties this season have contributed to victories for Sunrisers. The opener’s consistency has been the bedrock upon which the team is building its dreams. Warner turned failure into opportunity, working out of a slump that saw him return dismal figures from Australia’s campaign in the WT20 competition. He seems to have injected the same spirit into the franchise he leads. Sunrisers have been languishing in sixth place on the IPL table for two seasons running. But they look like a different unit this year, combining well to turn into a real threat.
A couple of things stood out about Saturday’s match. Each of the earlier games at the Uppal Stadium were won chasing scores and Warner’s two failures this season came while batting first. And though it was a tough toss to lose against a power-packed RCB batting, Warner took on the challenge of setting a score with an innings of responsibility that underlined his growing maturity as a player and leader. Despite the early departure of Shikhar Dhawan, Warner refused to let the situation get the better of him. He played the ball on merit, setting himself up for a long knock, designed to serve the best interests of his team.
Kane Williamson was only playing his first match of the season, but in the company of Warner, he relished the luxury of just rotating strike to get his eye in without the need for any undue risks. In the end, it was their 124-run partnership and a late flourish by Moises Henriques (14-ball-31) that helped Sunrisers pose a serious question to the batting wealth of the Royal Challengers.
Once the RCB innings began, Warner again made one critical change that derailed any hopes the Bengaluru outfit might have had of a successful chase. Barinder Sran or Henriques have usually been Warner’s first bowling change. But on Saturday, facing a rampant Virat Kohli, Warner brought in Musatfizur early, showing his willingness to take a risk that paid rich dividends. Fizz got the better of Kohli, who cut in the air towards backward point. KL Rahul prospered for a bit, but the departure of three batsmen, including Shane Watson and AB de Villiers, in the space of four overs killed RCB’s hopes.
This Sunrisers team is clearly Warner’s. His consistency with the bat and composure on the field have been the two biggest factors for the success of the team this season. But we are still only halfway through the league and there is plenty of cricket still to be played. Tom Moody will hope that his captain can keep his charm working for a few more weeks.
There are two important clashes coming up — against Gujarat Lions on 6 May and against Mumbai Indians two days later. The Sunrisers need to sustain the level they were at on Saturday or risk a slide back into the bottom half of the table. They have five days of rest coming up before that and would be up for the exciting challenge posed by Suresh Raina’s Lions.