Warner, Wriddhiman make a statement after their SRH exits

  • The explosive Australia batter, who fell out with Sunrisers in 2021, and the India ‘keeper have risen again with Delhi Capitals and Gujarat Titans respectively
David Warner; Wriddhiman Saha PREMIUM
David Warner; Wriddhiman Saha
Published on May 17, 2022 09:05 PM IST
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By, Mumbai

With 5,876 career runs, David Warner’s position in the IPL pantheon is guaranteed. Third in the list of all-time run-getters, his consistency has been remarkable. The runs have been amassed in 60 fewer games than leading run-getter Virat Kohli. An average of 42.58 and a strike rate of 140.81 make it even more special.

 

A majority of Warner’s runs came in Sunrisers Hyderabad colours. He was captain of SRH from 2015 until late into the 2021 season. Besides establishing himself as one of the most prolific scorers in IPL, he also led SRH to their only title in 2016.

So, for the franchise to not bid for him at all in the mega auction held in February showed how the ties had deteriorated between them. An ultimate professional, the Aussie has put all that behind him for another sizzling season. Picked up by Delhi Capitals for 6.25 crore, the left-handed opener has proved value for money with 427 runs in 10 matches till Monday.

It was a typical response from the firebrand Australian. But, what has been heartening for him is to see how former SRH teammate Wriddhiman Saha too is making a statement after drawing unwanted attention for taking on some big names in Indian cricket.

For someone who has lived under the large shadow of MS Dhoni for most of his career, Saha hasn’t done badly in the limited time he got with India after the former quit international cricket. The wicket-keeper from Bengal played 40 Tests, making a name for his brilliance behind the stumps on square turners in India.

An old-school player, Saha has let his performances speak aloud. No outrageous statement or controversy. Unlike his India team successor, Rishabh Pant, there is no banter or sledging from behind the stumps.

But he couldn’t hold back for once. With his international career on the line, he erupted. Saha took the names of two of Indian cricket’s biggest personalities, BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and India coach Rahul Dravid, for his move to end his Test career. He said Dravid had hinted he should retire and that Ganguly had assured a regular Test spot while he headed the board. He then revealed that a journalist threatened him for not taking his phone calls for an interview. It happened before the Bengal Ranji Trophy team selection when he gave the reason for not making himself available for selection. BCCI has banned the journalist.

All this drew unwanted media attention. Many of his India colleagues are used to that, but not Saha. For the first time, he was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. So, there was focus on how the 37-year-old would cope with the few years of cricket left in him.

Kept on the bench for the first few IPL games, the ageing warrior has surprised everyone after being given a run. Making light of the unwanted attention, he has come up with scores of 11, 25, 68, 29, 21, 55, 5 and 67* for his new side, Gujarat Titans. Revelling as a power-hitter at the top of the order, he averages 40.14 from eight games, aggregating 281 runs at a strike rate of 123.24.

Not many had given newcomers Titans much chance, but players like Saha have exceeded expectations to help top the points table.

Sunday’s performance against holders Chennai Super Kings was almost a perfect game. After restricting CSK to 133/5, Saha led the chase with 67* for a seven-wicket win. He paced the knock beautifully. Having started with a flurry of boundaries, he toned down his aggression once the field restrictions were off after the powerplay overs.

GT took 5.5 overs to reach 50, of which Saha contributed 37 (23 balls) and Gill 15 (13 balls). From 53/0 in six overs, with 81 to get in 84 balls on a slow pitch, Saha slowed down to anchor the chase. He hit seven fours and a six in the powerplay, while the eighth and final four was hit only in the 20th over, as the winning shot.

“My role is to play my natural game in the first six overs. After that, my strengths are to be backed, be it playing the sweep or charging down,” said Saha, while receiving the Player-of-the-Match award.

His success this year is a big boost from last season for SRH—131 runs at an average of 14.56 at a poor strike rate of 93.57.

Explaining the difference in his approach this season in a chat with teammate Mohammed Shami, Saha said: “In the first six overs, my mindset is to take a chance in my shots. Earlier, I used to like hitting down the ground. This season I have worked more on the short ball and am connecting well.

“I have been playing for so long. But this set-up takes care of the group. I didn't play the initial games, but executed my plans when I got a chance. We were not chasing a big target. So, I took my chances in the powerplay and then there was no need to take chances as the required rate was under six.”

WARNER’S STATEMENT

His SRH captain Warner too has been out to prove a point. Saha saw first-hand the turmoil Warner endured last season. Warner led SRH in the first six games of 2021 before being sacked as captain for leading them to just one win. He was replaced by Kane Williamson and was left out of the playing XI for the next game.

Everything about that split was bitter. Warner even stayed back at the hotel while SRH continued their horror run. At one point, he cheered from the stands. The franchise failed to make it to the playoffs after three wins in 14 games. Warner’s returns from eight matches were 195 runs (avg 24.38, S/R 107.73).

Even Warner’s Player-of-the-Tournament performance at the T20 World Cup late in 2021 couldn’t persuade SRH to bid for him at the auction. For Delhi Capitals, the IPL legend averages 61 (S/R 152.50).

When he came up against SRH, like a seasoned campaigner he didn’t take a dig at his old team. He let his bat do the talking, hammering an unbeaten 92 off 58 balls to help DC amass 207/3 in the 21-run win.

After the game, Warner played down the issues between him and SRH. “I didn’t need any extra motivation. We’ve all seen what happened in the past. It was just good to get the win on the board,” he said.

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Monday, July 04, 2022