David Warner picked up the IPL where he left off before the break – his form shattered, his morale in tatters. Atrocious for the Sunrisers Hyderabad and Australia, Warner hasn’t been himself for a while. After the Ashes 2019 slump, he rebounded with a triple century against Pakistan and had a profitable 2020, but this year he seems to have returned to the ghosts of two years back.
In seven IPL games, on either side of the five-month break, he worked for 193 points at a strike rate of 108, his worst in any season, lost the captain job and was benched for a match. More worryingly, he seemed genuinely out of touch and found multiple ways out.
What did Warner lose to the Delhi Capitals?
South African puller Andre Nortje opened it like a professional would, or like a can of cola. The Aussie opener trained for a predetermined breakout from the striking leg side, only that he misjudged Nortje’s lightning pace, abrupt rebound and the hint of outward movement that Dubai surface offers leaders in the first overs. The short ball took the splice of its blade and headed for the outfielder. The swaying and sewing motion has been its familiar enemy, but rhythm and bounce rarely is. At his best, he relishes both the pace and the rebound, with the ball hitting his bat well. But he looks far from his best. The two previous balls illustrated the depth of his misfortunes. He missed a fast but full ball, which a Warner spike would have thundered through the covers, before nervously defending a good length ball just outside the stump.
What’s wrong with eating it?
One of his trusted allies seems to have abandoned him. His quick feet, which usually save him from trouble, often making up for his hard (but quick) hands. He doesn’t take giant strides, back, side or forward, but his foot movements are quick, precise and decisive from the first ball he faces. But in the three balls he’s faced against the Delhi Capitals, his feet are moving slowly, a bit too late to respond to the synapses of his mind. A side frame of his dismissal captures the difficulties of his feet. As he makes contact with the ball, a touch sooner than he expected, he hops, balancing just on his back toe, front leg in the air and bat face pointed. up rather than facing the ground. The front view shows he is on the move with his head tilted back, not over the ball. Put simply, he found himself in a difficult position to play the kick because his feet weren’t moving as easily as they often do.
Was it an aberration?
Warner has played little cricket this year, a few test matches in January, a handful of Marsh Cup matches and seven IPL matches. So maybe he was rusty, not in great shape and in good shape. Maybe as the tournament progressed it would rediscover the destructible Warner we know. But recklessly, the same set of issues haunted him throughout this IPL – feet not where he wants them, head down, balance out of whack and subsequently not timing the ball. His raw power and hand-eye coordination couldn’t always save him. The problem is exaggerated against very fast bowlers like Nortje, Kagiso Rabada (who nailed him four times in T20 alone) and Jasprit Bumrah, a telltale sign that his reactions are slowing down, little by little. This is of greater concern as he normally plays (and skims) fast bowlers better than he would with spinners, especially in the subcontinent, where Ravi Ashwin, Shakib Al Hasan and Harbhajan Singh are among the top five who dismissed him the most in the IPL. So in the World Cup, which would be played in the Emirates, it would be both a pace and a rotation event.
How bright are his hopes for a return to form ahead of the T20 World Cup?
He would get at least six games in the IPL, given the Sunrisers lack firepower up front. Jonny Bairstow’s absence is a largesse to him – if the England batsman hadn’t stayed behind, Warner would have continued to warm up on the bench. In addition, the Sunrisers have been patient with him, giving themselves time to regain the form of one of their greatest game winners and personalities. Warner also sought to dig the trough, channeling the inner strength of the difficult times he had endured in his life and career. He’s a tough character and he wouldn’t fall without a fight tooth and nail to dust off his form. There is a kind of break-in of the meetings – the Sunrisers then meet the Punjab Kings and the Rajasthan Royals. Both sides don’t have the kind of bowlers that could torment them.
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