Six players have scored more than 5000 runs in the Indian Premier League (IPL). David Warner is one of them. The other five are Virat Kohli, Shikar Dhawan, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma and AB de Villiers, esteemed company to be in. Of the top 10 run-makers in the history of the IPL, Warner’s 42.22 average is the highest. And in that group, only AB de Villiers (152.7) and Chris Gayle (149.16) have scored their runs at a higher strike rate.
The Australian left-hander has been a part of the IPL since 2009, representing the Delhi Daredevils, and, since the 2014 edition, Sunrisers Hyderabad. During that period, he has been a consistently excellent performer, has played a number of match-winning innings, and has scored four centuries and 50 half centuries. The high level of his consistency can hardly be overstated. His averages for the last five years have been: 43.23, 60.57, 58.27, 69.2, and 39.14.
This season, however, he hasn’t exactly set the IPL on fire. He hasn’t been awful; in six games he averages 32.16. This is not where he’d want to be but not exactly down in the doldrums either.
He also played one or two innings where he fought to score quickly enough. His 36 from 34 balls against the Mumbai Indians was not him at his best. He made 37 in 37 deliveries against the Punjab Kings, but his side was chasing a small total (120), and the innings was appropriate in the circumstances. Fluency also eluded him during his most recent knock against the Chennai Super Kings. We all saw his troubles in getting the ball away in that game, no matter how hard he tried.
As captain of the team he has not been leading them on a path to glory. Sunrisers are currently last in the standings, having won only one game so far this year. It was expected, therefore, that questions would arise about his leadership, and somewhat understandable that he was relieved of the job, especially with as worthy a candidate as Kane Williamson available to take over.
And yet, how could anyone with their faculties intact think it a smart idea to leave him out of the side entirely? Sack him as captain if you must, but as a batsman his name should have been one of the first on the team sheet.
Warner has long been a dominant player who opponents fear; a player as capable as any of playing the kind of inflammatory innings that can take a game away from an opponent or bring his team back from the dead. Leaving him out of the team, especially one struggling to win games is like pulling Secretariat from the 1973 Kentucky derby field because he didn’t run well in the race leading up to the big event. Secretariat won the derby and set a record that stands to this day.
Or, like England dropping Ian Botham for the 1981 Ashes. Botham was captain, and his side was pummelled by the West Indies the series prior. And despite him being the best all-rounder in England, perhaps in the world, his performance was underwhelming. Luckily for England they kept him as a player while dumping him as captain. The series is recorded in history as Botham’s Ashes.
This is not to say, of course, that Warner would have made runs had they stuck with him. And even if he did play and did make runs, who is to say it would have really mattered? Jos Buttler, though he ought to have been out LBW when on seven against Rajasthan Royals, played the kind of innings that makes victory extremely likely.
Given his exploits over the years and his capacity for wreaking havoc, it is extremely surprising that Sunday’s 124 is his only T20 century. His runs came from just 64 deliveries and it is instructive that though he struggled at the beginning, his innings blossomed as it progressed. This is what he said after the game: “I think sometimes you have to swallow your ego when you're not in perfect touch. You have to give yourself time and find your way. I tried to stay in and keep the belief that something will click.”
And click it did. He blasted 11 fours and eight sixes during his knock, and simply could not be calmed when he got into full gear.
Like Warner, Buttler has been struggling in this year’s IPL. In the six games he had prior to Sunday’s encounter he made only 130 runs at the rather measly average of 21.66, which is considerably lower than Warner’s. The big difference, however, is that the Royals kept faith with Buttler, aware of his ability as one of the game’s elite performers. The Sunrisers should have done the same for Warner.
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Check out photos from Match 23 of IPL 2021 between CSK and SRH in New Delhi.
Warner was stripped of SRH captaincy on Saturday after the team lost five out of its first six matches and Williamson's elevation to the post hasn't changed the fortunes as it sufferer a 55-run defeat in the hands of Rajasthan Royals.
Manish Pandey, who hasn't been scoring at a quick clip, was dropped for a much younger Jharkhand left-hander Virat Singh, who scored only 4 off 14 balls.