David Warner
David Warner watches Sunrisers Hyderabad play the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL 2021 game in Dubai on October 4, 2021. Image Credit: Twitter/@ESPNcricinfo

David Warner was in the stands waving a Sunrisers Hyderabad flag on Sunday. He would have preferred to be on the pitch at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. Especially on a night when the Sunrisers batsmen were struggling against the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Instead, he sat on a terrace with some of his mates. Warner cut a forlorn figure. The flag-waving seemed mechanical. Without passion. It was more for the optics.

Warner’s fall from grace has been perplexing. Why would the Sunrisers axe him as captain? He gave the franchise some of their best years, including their lone IPL title in 2019.

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Reports say that Warner clashed with the SRH management on team selection. He made his displeasure known during the post-match chat. And it had repercussions. Warner’s poor form and a disastrous start for Sunrisers in IPL 2021 didn’t help.

Yet, the speed at which the events unfolded was baffling. Warner was sacked as captain and replaced with Kane Williamson. Not just that, the Australian was dropped from the team as well. It was quite clear that the remarks on selection didn’t go down well with the SRH management.

Even when the IPL moved to the UAE, Warner played just one match, and the first-over dismissal consigned him to the benches. What a fall for a captain who rallied the team around over several seasons.

The David Warner effect

Last year, the Australian revived Sunrisers’ faltering campaign to make the playoff with a string of victories. Warner injected self-belief into the team and encouraged the youngsters to give off their best. Medium-pacer Sandeep Sharma became one of SRH’s main wicket-takers, and left-armer T. Natarajan transformed into a potent pace bowler who went on to play for India in all formats.

Warner should be credited for all of that. True, there’s a huge team turning the wheels of the franchise. Sunrisers have chief coach Trevor Bayliss, team director Tom Moody and mentors VVS Laxman and Muttiah Muralitharan. But finally, it’s the captain who’s in charge, making strategic decisions on the field by the minute.

Would SRH drop Warner if he’s been scoring? No, they would have relieved him of captaincy, but he would continue as a player. By his standards, Warner has had a bad run. But he’s still one of Sunrisers’ best run-getters this season with 193 runs, but at a poor strike rate of 110.28.

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Sunrisers’ troubles go beyond Warner. It’s got to do more with the composition of the team. Leg-spinner Rashid Khan is the lone bowler capable of winning matches, so they need an overseas pace bowler of repute. More so since Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is not at his best and tends to break down more often.

In Warner, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, they have three opening batsmen. Williamson comes in at one drop, and leggie Rashid Khan has to play. Jason Holder or Mohammad Nabi will have to take the all-rounder’s slot. All of them are overseas players. There’s quality, but it doesn’t help balance the team.

David Warner
David Warner of the Sunrisers Hyderabad plays a shot during IPL 2021. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

Sunrisers should take a long hard look at the team before the next auction and make some prudent purchases. Only then can they avoid this year’s debacle.

As for Warner, he’s played his last match for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. He may find another franchise next year, but his role will never be the same. He won’t have the same influence. That could suit him better since he can focus on his batting. If he keeps scoring, Warner won’t have to wave their flag.