Sunrisers Hyderabad have got off to the worst possible start in IPL 2021 and find themselves languishing at the bottom of the table with five losses from six matches. While a weak middle-order has always been the bane of SRH the top-order has fired consistently and helped the franchise come up with fine returns in almost every tournament they have participated in. And the constant in the top-order has been the swashbuckling opener from Australia – David Warner.
However, the story is slightly different this year. Warner has not been at his best in IPL 2021. Although he has scored 193 runs in 6 innings which include two fifties, he has been sluggish and tentative with an overall strike rate of just 110.28. This is a far cry from the destructive left-hander who has annihilated the best of opposition bowling attacks in the IPL season after season, over the years.
Warner registered a fifty for SRH against CSK but consumed 55 deliveries for his 57 which meant that he had scored at a rate of 103.63 per hundred balls – a poor effort which ultimately cost his team the match. SRH had lost the wicket of Jonny Bairstow early in the innings and given the fragility of the lower middle order, it was understandable that Warner was cautious at the start. But the acceleration never came and that is where the Sunrisers lost out on 15-25 crucial runs which could have fetched a different result.
Warner hit just one four in the powerplay and only a couple in the next six overs. This meant that SRH had not even reached a run rate of 7 after 12 overs although they had nine wickets in hand – this was not optimum use of resources by the skipper. With a batsman of the calibre of Kane Williamson waiting to come, Warner should have taken the initiative and pushed on the peddle in the first half of the SRH innings but he did not – he decided to play the role of the anchor leaving Manish Pandey and Williamson to up the ante. This was a bad strategy and poor planning by Warner. After consuming the number of deliveries he did there was no other option but to change gears and up the tempo. That responsibility could not only be left to the other two batsmen in the top four.
Warner’s patchy and scratchy struggle came at an end in the 18th over – SRH had only managed to reach 128 at that stage wasting the resources they had in hand which included the New Zealander playmaker in the middle order.
Warner scored 54 off 37 against the RCB but was still not at his destructive best for SRH. He registered 36 off 34 deliveries as SRH failed to chase 150 against the Mumbai Indians. His other 30-plus score included a run-a-ball 37 against the Punjab Kings. Warner has failed in two innings in the competition registering a single-digit score.
So the problem is two-fold. One, he is not being able to convert the starts into match-winning contributions for SRH at the top of the order – something he did with brilliant consistency over the years. Secondly, and more significantly, he has not been at his destructive best and has lost a bit of his hitting prowess at the top of the order. Maybe, the weak lower-middle order is also playing on his mind and he is caught in between the two options – whether to go all-out and attack as he has in the past or to play the role of the accumulator.
Warner went through a similar struggle last season too. Although he amassed 548 runs they came at a strike rate of 134.64. Five of his 9 thirty-plus scores in the season came at a scoring rate of less than 140.
Warner was at his devastating best between 2014 and 2019. In each of the seasons he played during this time-frame, he aggregated more than 500 runs at a strike rate of above 140. This made him one of the most feared and intimidating batsmen to bowl to in the IPL.
SRH need Warner the aggressor and dazzling stroke-maker at the top of the order if they want to make a comeback in the second half of the tournament.