Such is the high standards David Warner has set for himself, particularly in the IPL, that he is currently being scrutinized despite averaging 41.37 this season. For most batsmen in the world, a 331-run tally after 9 games would be considered outstanding, but Warner is not your average cricketer.
On Sunday, David Warner became the first overseas batsman in IPL history to breach the 5000-run mark barrier. 10 days prior to his achievement on Sunday, the Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper became the first batsman in IPL history to register fifty 50+ scores in the competition. You need to be a pretty darn good cricketer to hold the label of being the ‘greatest’ in a competition that comprises Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina amongst others and Warner certainly is one.
But even the most ardent David Warner fan will tell you that there’s something not quite right about the SRH skipper this season. His numbers, as always, have held up: his tally of 331 runs is the highest for any SRH batsman and only five batsmen have notched up more runs than him this season. But there has been an indifference about the southpaw’s batting that has flustered and thrown viewers off balance; he has just not strummed the right chords.
The Kolkata Knight Riders game on Sunday epitomized Warner’s struggles. Donning the No.4 role to fill in for Kane Williamson, who opened the batting as he was nursing a dodgy hamstring, Warner played a third-gear-knock where, not for the first time this season, he failed to take the side over the line. Walking in at 70/2 in the 9th over, with his side needing 93 off the final 10, the southpaw gave the impression that he had the perfect measure of the chase, yet was ultimately let down by his own inability to kick on and dispatch the bad balls - so much so that, until the last over where he barely connected Russell’s dobblers, he relied on 18-year-old Abdul Samad to get the job done for the side. This was not the Warner IPL fans had been accustomed to watching; not the one who single-handedly took SRH over the line in Qualifier 2 four years ago, at least.
The worry for both Warner and SRH is that the KKR knock on Sunday was not just a one-off - the entirety of IPL 2020 has been an astronomical struggle for the SRH skipper. Not long ago in Sharjah, he crawled his way to an extremely prosaic 60, and a commonality between most of his knocks this season has been his inability to simply put the foot on the accelerator when he’s desired. The numbers give a damning indictment of how Warner has been a shadow of his own self this season - in more ways than one.
With 331 runs to his name, Warner might currently be the highest run-getter for SRH this season, but not since IPL 2014 has he accumulated fewer runs after the nine-game mark. In each of the previous 4 editions in the IPL, Warner accumulated at least 375 runs after 9 games and 2019, in fact, was his best year, with him racking up a remarkable 517 runs after 9 innings. IPL 2014 - when he plied his trade in the middle-order - was the last instance of Warner scoring fewer at the nine-game mark than he’s done this season and there, too, he boasted a significantly better average (49.5) than he’s done this season (41.4).
But more than the runs, the column that will concern both Warner and SRH will be his strike rate. In each of the last four editions of the IPL, the left-hander boasted a SR of 148 or more after 9 games, and yet this season, that figure has seen a significant drop to a meagre 124.2. The last time Warner had a lower SR after 9 matches was, again, in the 2014 season, where he struck at 123.2 but there, unlike this year, he did not have the advantage of the powerplay. In fact, Warner’s SR of 124.43 this season is the second-lowest amongst SRH batsmen who have scored a minimum of 65 runs and the lowest amongst the Top 9 run-getters in this edition.
So how could a batsman who is considered one of the most aggressive hitters in the world, and has a decade full of data to back up the fact that he can set matches ablaze, suddenly bat so slow, to the extent that his strike rate sees a 16% drop?
This ‘power rating’ from CricViz could perhaps explain it. CricViz’s Power Rating ‘looks at a player’s ability to find and clear the rope when they make good contact’ and according to the data, Warner’s power rating of 61 this season is the worst in his entire IPL career.
The data reveals that Warner has, in fact, attacked 68.3% of his deliveries this season - second to only the IPL 2015 season where he attacked 71% of all balls he faced - yet has simply not been able to clear the ropes as much as he would have liked to.
His ‘boundary hitting’ numbers this season are damning, to say the least.
Thus far in IPL 2020, Warner has struck just 35 boundaries (4s and 6s) in 9 innings, an average of 3.9 per match. In each of the last four editions in the IPL, the southpaw, at the nine-game stage, struck at least 6.8 boundaries per game on average. This season, Virat Kohli (3 boundaries per game) is the only batsman in the top 9 run-getters to have struck fewer boundaries per match. On top of that, Warner’s tally of 8 sixes after 9 games is also his lowest in the IPL in the last six years and thus far this season, no batsman in the top nine run-getters has struck fewer sixes than the SRH skipper.
The problem for Warner, with respect to both boundary hitting and overall strike rate, has stemmed from his ineffectiveness in the powerplay.
The eight times Warner has batted inside the powerplay this season, he’s maintained a SR of 105.6. This is almost 30 fewer than his SR in any of the six previous IPL editions and also the worst amongst any SRH batsman who has batted at least thrice in the powerplay in IPL 2020. His tally of 2 boundaries per game inside the powerplay this season is also his worst in the IPL in the last six editions - in each of the last 4 editions, he struck an average of four boundaries per game inside the first six overs.
This figure is particularly perplexing because his numbers in international cricket have been the polar opposite. In 11 T20Is post-IPL 2019, Warner maintained a SR of 144.6 inside the powerplay and as recently as August, versus England, he took 29 runs off 19 balls (SR 152.6) inside the powerplay in a knock where he went on the post a fine half-century. Yet in IPL 2020, Warner has boasted a sub-85 SR in the powerplay (min 10 balls faced) thrice and has only once struck more than two fours in an innings inside the first six overs. For a player of Warner’s quality and reputation, these are abhorrently disastrous numbers.
What’s clear though is that his struggles this season have been enabled by his ineffectiveness versus seamers - both right and left-arm. Despite having been dismissed four times by leg-spinners this season, Warner‘s troubles have emerged from the fact that he’s simply not been able to put the fast bowlers away. Versus right-arm and left-arm medium-pacers this season, the southpaw has scored just 107 runs off 103 balls, despite being dismissed just twice by them. In the powerplay, against the two aforementioned types of bowlers, the 33-year-old has scored just 47 runs off 61 balls, a strike rate of 77, meaning he’s had no choice but to go after the spinners.
However, despite the numbers looking uninspiring, a turnaround for Warner might not be far away. This is due to his showing in the middle overs, where he’s arguably been as good as any IPL season in the recent past. Between overs 7-15 this season, Warner has averaged 42.5 and has struck almost at 135. These numbers are almost on par with his showing in the previous editions. In fact, only once in the last six years has he had a better dot-ball percentage than in IPL 2020 (24.6%).
Perhaps there’s a clue lying in these numbers for Warner: that he needs to take more risks and show more aggression up-front. Far too often this season, he’s played within himself, put himself in a situation where he has to play catch-up and has consequently hurt the side due to his success rate being zilch. That said, there’s a reason why he’s the greatest the IPL has seen and why his success rate is second to none. Self-belief is what has helped the SRH skipper scale the heights he has in his career and in the IPL and he, more than anyone else, would know and realize that he needs to do better if SRH are to make the playoffs.