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David Warner and SRH - Smile because it happened

David Warner might have played his last game for SRH (Pic Credits: India Today)
David Warner might have played his last game for SRH (Pic Credits: India Today)
EXPERT COLUMNIST

In life, people have found themselves in situations where everything just seems right, whether it involves professional work or personal relationships. Not only do they seem to preempt things that might cause disruption, they also seem to have the answers to queries that would ordinarily cause more than a furrowed brow.

In simpler words, their life resembles a fairy tale – a fairy tale that has been handpicked to fulfill all possible wishes. And, of course, one that will, whenever it winds down, bring a smile to their faces. Not because it is over (obviously) but because it happened in the first place.

For the better part of the past decade, that has exactly been the kind of relationship David Warner has enjoyed with the Sunrisers Hyderabad – a franchise that hasn’t always been a part of the IPL but has been around the higher echelons since its inception in 2012.

Truth be told, a lot of that has been down to Warner’s brilliance, not just as a batter, but also as an influential leader – a leader who has often saved his best for SRH and has (at the cost of sounding cliched) shed blood, sweat and tears.

So much so that Warner, since being roped in by SRH before the 2014 IPL season, has been their highest run-getter. He has, by the way, also been the leading run-scorer overall during that phase, indicating his impact at the franchise. And, he single-handedly won SRH the IPL title in 2016 – an achievement only few others can lay claim to.

To place things into further context, SRH have long been an outfit boasting an excellent bowling line-up – an attack that performs irrespective of the conditions. On the batting front, they’ve hardly had as many superstars over the years. Yet, they had Warner, meaning that many of those arguments were often rendered moot.

Apart from that, Warner also personified the spirit that existed in SRH’s ranks. The Orange Army didn’t always have the most star-studded playing elevens but they had a captain who never gave up and a leader who didn’t shirk away from responsibility – something that might’ve even prompted those around him to punch above their weight.

Thus, the marriage between SRH and Warner seemed perfect. Not just because the results were falling in place, but also because Warner was the flag-bearer of everything good that SRH have done since 2014.

In 2021 though, something broke. It broke so badly that Warner wasn’t just dropped from the team twice, he was also sacked as SRH’s captain mid-season. So much for paying respect to SRH’s greatest player ever eh?

David Warner struggled for form in IPL 2021

To say that Warner set the 2021 edition of the IPL alight would be an overstatement because, well, he didn’t. He looked patchy for far too long and seemed a pale shadow of the batter who has dominated the IPL over the past few years.

If numbers are used as a yardstick, he only mustered 195 runs in 8 innings at an average of 24.37 and a strike rate of 107.73. Moreover, he only notched up two half-centuries, which considering his overall IPL record of scoring a fifty once in three matches, illustrated his waning stock.

However, it would also be unfair to say that this was SRH’s best season in the IPL. Not because they finished last but because their shortcomings were mercilessly exposed – shortcomings that Warner has been masking ever since making his bow for the franchise.

All said and done, Warner, despite a mediocre season, has still accumulated more runs than any other batter in the IPL since 2014. He also has the highest average among those to have scored 2450 runs or more, whereas his strike rate is only second to a certain AB de Villiers.

David Warner wasn't at his best in IPL 2021 (Pic Credits: Cricket Times)
David Warner wasn't at his best in IPL 2021 (Pic Credits: Cricket Times)

While that might hint at how much Warner has huffed and puffed this season, it also shows how crucial the Australian has been over the years. And, of course, that SRH might just have been guilty of being too trigger-happy, with respect to Warner.

From a cricketing standpoint alone, it seems hard to justify how SRH have suddenly cast their guardian angel by the wayside. Every international cricketer is prone to a bad season but the way the Orange Army have treated Warner has certainly left a sour taste.

This escalated towards the end of the season when Warner watched most matches from his hotel room because SRH couldn’t find enough spots to accommodate the Australian in their travelling matchday squad.

It perhaps reached a crescendo when Warner penned a heartfelt letter to the SRH fans – fans that have stuck by him through thick and thin and have, to an extent, given him the respect he deserves. It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that Warner was SRH’s answer to CSK and their Thala MS Dhoni. He was that influential and had such stature.

Over the years, the IPL has thrown up countless fairy tales, whether it be the CSK-Dhoni marriage, the Royal Challengers Bangalore-Virat Kohli association or Rohit Sharma’s extraordinary relationship with the Mumbai Indians.

SRH and Warner were up there too, until the franchise, rather inexplicably, allowed it to unravel spectacularly in 2021. In simpler words, Warner was SRH and SRH was Warner.

And this didn’t just happen by chance over the course of a season or two. It happened each year, without fail, even rivaling the consistency Warner enjoyed in the cash-rich league. From that perspective alone then, the Australian surely deserved a better send-off than the one he got.

For people blessed with a more poetic inclination, it is a pity that a fairy tale that seemed so perfect just wasn’t meant to be ultimately. The answers that Warner unerringly had, seemingly count for nothing now and that is probably the saddest bit.

There are some overseas player-franchise associations for the ages. Like Pollard and Malinga with #MI, AB with #RCB. Maybe Bravo with #CSK. Warner and #SRH will always be up there. Bit painful to see that unraveling.

Not because Warner (pardon the cliché) shed blood, sweat and tears but also because he has defined an entire generation of SRH fans – fans who were seeking refuge when the franchise was formed but deemed a Warner-shaped side passionate enough to call home.

SRH and Warner could’ve been a lot of things. But they end up being another rendition of a tale that had the most ideal beginning and middle phase before falling apart at the end.

Warner, though, might still turn up next season for a different franchise (yes, that is quite likely) and play with the sort of positivity that has been a hallmark of his career at SRH.

He will still leap into the air when (or if) he smashes a hundred, still show the kind of aggression that endears him to thousands of fans and of course, display the charisma that immortalizes him among the faithful.

Most tellingly, he will keep smiling. Not because the SRH-Warner narrative has now come to an end. But because it happened. Perhaps that is what the SRH fans might have to do as well!

Edited by Habil Ahmed Sherule
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