David Warner has been a colossus in the Indian T20 league over the years. He has been perhaps the second most destructive overseas batsman after Chris Gayle, but easily the most consistent and bloody-minded opener in the game.
Around four years ago, I remember watching a game between the Mumbai Indians and the Delhi Daredevils at the Brabourne stadium in Mumbai. Those were the days when Sachin Tendulkar was still around, when Dinesh Karthik was going great guns for the team, and when David Warner was – again – the lone warrior for his own Delhi team along with Morne Morkel. The Indians, on the back of a flawless 80-odd by Karthik and a fighting 70 by Rohit Sharma, scored more than 200 on a flat pitch. Delhi lost half their team very soon, but David Warner treated the ground like his backyard. He scored one of the quickest fifties of the season, clearing the rope at will, silencing the crowd every over. When he fell with a mistimed pull shot, it was over, but people recognized that this Aussie – who they didn’t like very much as an international player – would take this league seriously over the years.
Four years later, he has led his new Sunrisers team to victory. He still gets out to mistimed cramped pull shots, still falls short of scoring huge centuries, and still falls between the 10th and 15th over after giving his team an explosive start. But this time, he is the captain, which means he knows exactly how to capitalize on his own shortcomings and frighten teams into submission before they react. After Shane Warne now, he is perhaps Australia’s best captain they never had, and is the third Aussie to lead an Indian T20 league team to the title after Warne and Adam Gilchrist. Like the previous two, these have been fairytale seasons built on unconventional strengths (bowling, captaincy), against the run of form and flow, and most resourceful. It’s not surprising that Australian cricketers understand Indian domestic players so well, especially given that each one of the younger cricketers wants to impress a world champion captain in their side.
As a batsman alone, Warner has scored 32 fifties – a record in this league. Only Gayle has played lesser games than him in the top-scorers list; he has played 100 to Gayle’s 92 (but Gayle is not a “fifties” guy, he has just 20). Warner’s average of 38.4 is third only to Gayle’s monstrous 43.3 (it was 48 before this season) and AB de Villiers’ non-out-ridden 39.2. He has only 12 not outs, which means that his average isn’t deceptive – he actually does end up scoring 40 or more before getting out, at a high rate, irrespective of where his team lies. With more of the responsibility over the last two years at the top of the order, he has tempered his outbursts, which means that his strike-rate hovers “only” around the 142 mark. He plays the destructor, the anchor as well as the finisher at times – quite an achievement for a guy who is currently even one of Australia’s most remarkable test batsmen.
At 3373 runs, he is only behind Gayle’s 3426 in the foreign-batsmen category. He is the highest-scoring overseas player in a single season (2016) with 848, second overall only to Kohli’s miraculous 973-run season. The stats will keep building up every season, as will Warner’s legacy; he will remain the man whose gritty team outdid a record-breaking spree by Kohli and De Villiers over two months.