Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) chose to drop a major bombshell on what was otherwise a quiet, stale Saturday (May 1) afternoon in IPL 2021 by announcing a change in leadership, with longstanding skipper David Warner relinquishing captaincy duties for Kane Williamson.
The announcement was made via a statement from SRH’s official Twitter handle even as they are yet to reach the halfway mark of their tournament campaign, with just one victory after six matches.
Despite making it to the playoffs every season since they clinched the IPL title in 2016, a feeling that SRH are in desperate need of a revamp has been unavoidable. And, there was absolutely no hint that the change will begin with the person sitting at the helm – David Warner.
5,447 runs from 148 matches at an average of 42.22 and strike-rate of 140.13. Warner’s record puts him right up there among the legends of IPL cricket. Hardly any other big name has been that consistent and also that explosive at the same time over such a large number of games.
Interestingly, the captaincy change has happened a match after Warner had taken “full responsibility” for his team’s defeat against Chennai Super Kings (CSK). The fixture in Delhi saw the Australian really struggle to get the ball off the square through his painstaking 55-ball 57 in SRH’s disappointing loss.
“I take full responsibility. The way that I batted was obviously very slow,” David Warner had told host broadcaster Star Sports. “I was hitting a lot of fielders and [was] very, very frustrated… Look I take full responsibility from a batting point of view.”
One game prior to that encounter, Warner had suggested a sense of disconnect between him and the SRH coaching staff by saying that the omission of Manish Pandey, who batted well on comeback versus CSK, was a harsh call from the “selectors”.
Despite his class and pedigree, Warner hasn’t had the best of IPLs with the bat this season, scoring 193 runs at an insipid strike-rate of 110.28. And that, has coincided with a drop in the kind of authority he previously enjoyed in the decision-making process, something his own words regarding the Pandey selection indicated.
What triggered the end of the David Warner era?
While we can never be privy to the communication within the dressing room, it does seem that SRH have sacked David Warner rather than him choosing to take the extra burden off his shoulders.
In their statement, SRH mentioned clearly that they are looking to change their first-choice overseas combination, indicating the possibility of benching Warner and assigning him a role “off the field”.
“The team management has also made the decision that they will be changing their overseas combination for tomorrow’s match against Rajasthan Royals,” they said.
“The decision has not come lightly as the management respects the enormous impact David Warner has had for the franchise over a number of years. As we face the remainder of the season, we are sure David will continue to help us strive for success both on and off the field.”
Perhaps, Sunrisers are aiming for different points through one arrow, looking to address and resolve multiple issues with one significant change. The difference of opinion aside, SRH have probably taken note of the decline in Warner’s ball-striking ability since coming back to the game post the Cape Town incident two years back. Something has been off about Warner the batsman since 2018, as he hasn’t been as explosive as he used to be, though he did end with the Orange Cap in 2019 with a strike rate of nearing 144.
While SRH’s middle-order issues have often forced Warner to opt for a more risk-free approach, it is evident in the last few years that he isn’t finding the boundary at will like he used to in his prime. He isn’t anymore the David Warner of the 2016 season where he almost drove the entire batting unit single-handedly.
In the last year’s IPL, while he made 548 runs from his 16 innings at a decent average of 39.14, those runs came at a very unlike-David Warner strike-rate of 134.64 with a significantly reduced boundary percentage.
In signalling him that he may no longer be indispensable to their cause, SRH are not just putting Warner the batsman on the spot and conveying they need him back to his best but are also opening up the doors for Kane Williamson’s regular place in the team. Unlike David Warner, Kane Williamson seems in the pink of health with his batsmanship. He has also proven an extremely capable leader before.
Williamson led SRH from the front to their previous best finish – the final of the 2018 IPL season – a tournament where he topped run-charts and dispelled doubts over his T20 prowess by expanding his scoring options without shelving that naturally orthodox but charming style of play.
In the IPL 2020 played in UAE, Williamson made 317 runs from his 12 innings in the middle-order at an average of 45.28 and strike-rate of 133.75. Yet, the Kiwi stalwart didn’t start off initially in the SRH playing XI this season.
It was a shocking decision as the imperfectly balanced team couldn’t find a space for inarguably their most skillful, robust and in-form batsman. Williamson’s last two knocks against Delhi Capitals (DC) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) – in two completely unique roles and situations – have, therefore, been nothing short of a statement.
It does seem a natural progression for SRH to allow Williamson to take over and boost a team in need of new ideas and personnel. Even if it is at the expense of David Warner who, undoubtedly, has done more to build the brand SRH than anyone else but isn’t the player he once was.