At the highest level, regardless of the sport, consistency is valued over most traits. When it comes to T20 cricket in particular, it’s extremely rare and certainly not as easy as David Warner‘s record makes it out to be.
The Australian’s return to competitive cricket, following his year-long suspension for ball tampering, has been an extraordinary one. At 32, Warner is producing some of the best form of his career, frequently delivering the goods for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2019 Indian Premier League.
The opener’s outstanding performances in the current campaign regularly give his side’s innings a great start while his inclusion almost guarantees runs on the board, even when he isn’t in full flight – and therein lies the key.
Warner is capable of fireworks, that much is certain. He is one of the most explosive batsmen in the game and in the ongoing edition of the IPL itself, several knocks come to mind. There was an unbeaten 100 that came off 55 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore, a 69 off 37 in the first encounter with Rajasthan Royals and a 67 off 38 in victory at home to Kolkata Knight Riders.
But masterful stroke play and devastatingly big hits in isolation haven’t accounted for his remarkable tally of seven fifties and one century in 11 innings this season. The demands of consistency go beyond capitalising when you’re striking the ball effortlessly.
No batsman can be on top form every time they walk out to the middle but fashioning a contribution at the crease regardless, rather than striking out cheaply is where Warner has excelled.
The southpaw was far from his best last week in Chennai against a formidable bowling attack, but he put in the hard work after opening partner Jonny Bairstow departed for a duck, running between the wickets excellently before accelerating onto a score of 57 off 45 deliveries.
It was hardly his best work but commendable nevertheless, even aggressive compared to his latest knock. A peculiar innings against Rajasthan Royals on Saturday saw Warner face 32 deliveries without dispatching the ball to the ropes even once.
For most batsmen, utilising 25 per cent of his side’s innings without striking a boundary is unforgivable, but Warner is not most batsmen. Few are better than the opener at working the ball into the gaps, punching it through the outfield and running hard between the wickets, a skill no doubt honed through years spent batting on large Australian grounds.
According to espncricinfo, 12.43 per cent of Warner’s IPL runs have come in twos and threes – the highest figure among the top five run-scorers.
Of course, a score of 37 off 32 balls in Jaipur is less than ideal in T20 cricket but there’s still something to be said of a batsmen who can register a strike rate of 115.62 in the shortest format without hitting a boundary.
In fairness, Warner did profit from five runs via an overthrow but on a slow-ish track, he supported Manish Pandey (61 off 36), giving the Indian strike where possible before perishing in an effort to cut loose – Steve Smith, also involved in the same ball tampering scandal, taking a superb diving catch at midwicket.
After an outstanding start to the season, three defeats in their last five have left Sunrisers occupying the final playoff spot with 11 matches played, four points adrift of Delhi Capitals in third. They’re level on 10 points with fifth-placed Kings XI Punjab who they host on Monday.
In the biggest game of their season yet, Sunrisers will rely on Warner – who has surpassed the 600-run mark for a third consecutive season – to come up trumps again, especially with Bairstow having left to join England’s World Cup camp.
Franchise captain Kane Williamson has returned to the fold and he boasts an impressive track record of his own in the IPL but with his comeback from injury still fresh, expectations are tempered.
Warner on the other hand is a victim of his own consistency. Boasting an average of 67.88 this season, he’s donned the Orange Cap for nearly the whole campaign.
After an unbeaten 70 against Kings XI in Mohali, can Warner deliver against the same opposition again? There are no guarantees in sport, but he’s certainly the safest bet.
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