David Warner is walking back to the dugout. Fifteen short of a seventh T20 hundred, Warner has just sliced a catch to cover.
Under usual circumstances, Warner would likely be miffed at missing out on cracking triple-digits, such is his hunger for runs, but this time it's different. He walks back to his team-mates in a leisurely manner, soaking in the applause from the Kolkata crowd, a sense of satisfaction radiating from his face. He raises his bat gently, takes the atmosphere in, and disappears into the changing room.
This is not the Warner we have known. This is the Warner that's evolved over the last 365 days. Exactly a year ago, on March 24, 2018, Warner was in Cape Town, allegedly suggesting to his Australia opening partner Cameron Bancroft to use sandpaper on the ball. It led to a ban from Cricket Australia that's still not over, but back at the IPL after a forced one-year hiatus from the tournament, Warner's here to enjoy the cricket. And seeing him bat for 53 balls, it seems like Warner never left.
With the game starting at 4 pm, and the blazing sun turning into the same colour as the Sunrisers jersey, conditions for batting are not easy. He also has a new batting partner whom he may face off against in the Ashes really soon, but Warner is focused on only one thing, his batting.
As early as the second over of the match, Warner reminds everyone of what they've missed for so long. Piyush Chawla attempts to cramp him for room, but he isn't bothered: a couple of shuffles to the leg side, and Warner has carved two deliveries aimed at leg stump to the cover boundary. He picks up a pulled boundary from a shortish freebie from Prasidh Krishna in the next over and just like that he's moved to 19 off 13 balls.
There are unexpected challenges thrown Warner's way. In the fifth over he escapes a 145kph beamer from Lockie Ferguson, ending up nearly on all fours. The next ball is a full-toss, though, and he clatters it through the covers for another four. Sunil Narine comes on for the final Powerplay over, and Warner looks to maximise whatever's left of the field restrictions. A ball on his pads is swiftly whipped over short fine-leg, and the follow-up short ball is pulled to the midwicket fence. At 34 off 21, Warner is growing in confidence.
But the best of Warner comes after the Powerplay. With boundary-riders all around Eden Gardens, Warner dispatches Kuldeep Yadav's second ball of the season with a reverse-swept four to the third-man boundary. He follows it up with a shot struck so powerfully through the covers off Andre Russell that not a single fielder - and this is no exaggeration - bothers to move.
Next ball, Warner brings up the season's first half-century, and his 37th in the IPL, in the most domineering manner possible: a quick short ball from Russell, ramped over third man with both feet in the air. To end the tenth over, Warner picks Kuldeep's stock ball and shellacks a lofted hit with the turn, into the equipment of the cameraperson beyond the long-on boundary.
The otherwise partisan Kolkata crowd doesn't mind. They're witnessing one of the modern masters of the white-ball game. When No. 3 Vijay Shankar walks in, Warner tempers his aggression, with seven overs still remaining. He watches Vijay go down on one knee and slog over backward square leg, and enjoys the shot so much that he walks across to other end and punches Vijay's gloves so hard that the young Indian has to shake the blow away.
But this is Warner. This quality of putting team before self, perhaps, got him into trouble 365 days ago, and that quality, which has made Warner who he is, isn't going anywhere. He survives two dropped chances, but what's life without a slice of good luck? And life, for a man who's not had it easy since Cape Town, is slowly beginning to return to some kind of normalcy.