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David Warner quietly proves a point against old side Sunrisers Hyderabad

Did the game against Sunrisers bring the best out of Warner? Everybody thinks so, except him

Vishal Dikshit
Vishal Dikshit
"My thoughts are like every other game," David Warner said a day before playing for the first time against his former team Sunrisers Hyderabad, "just keep going through your processes till you have to do it, training and just get ready for the game."
Warner made match 50 of IPL 2022 sound like any other game, posted as much on his Instagram handle, and a few days later the match might even get buried in the heap of IPL scorecards. But knowing the magnitude of the occasion, some fans replied saying, "it's revenge time", some put up couplets of settling scores with Sunrisers, and one Sunrisers fan club said, "go easy on us, Davey."
It was almost as if Warner scoring big against Sunrisers was inevitable, and the reasons were also out there, except that Warner himself didn't say as much. Warner scored a scintillating 92 not out off 58 balls to lead Delhi Capitals to their third 200-plus total this IPL and a 21-run win against Sunrisers with a Player-of-the-Match performance.
The manner in which Warner was ousted from the Sunrisers camp last season, the way he was left behind in the hotel room for some matches and elbowed out of the team management, it snowballed into a controversy and became "a bitter pill to swallow" for Warner.
Only a few weeks later, Warner turned his form around to help Australia lift their maiden T20 World Cup by being the second-highest scorer and took home the Player-of-the-Series award. He went on to say, "When you are dropped from the team you have loved the most for years without any real fault of yours and stripped of captaincy without being given a reason, it hurts."
How can his first game against Sunrisers be just another game then? Have all the scars healed?
Broadcaster Harsha Bhogle poked Warner at the presentation on Thursday by asking, "was there something about today's innings? The fluency, the strokeplay, everything was just perfect."
Warner only referred to the batting-friendly conditions, but nothing about the past.
"I think when you rock up here and look at that wicket, it's a really nice wicket, and it doesn't matter if you bat or second," Warner replied. "You know it's going to be nice and true and I've obviously had some success here and played my strokes, didn't think about hitting gaps and just watch the ball and hit the ball. It was going to come off and fortunate that it did."
Bhogle prodded again. "But there seemed a little bit more today especially when Rovman Powell was batting, he is hitting sixes, you are screaming louder, was there a little bit more today?"
Warner this time deflected towards the challenging weather. "Obviously it's challenging here with the humidity in Mumbai. I was cooked there towards the back end, I'm getting older and having Rovi at the other end, he's got some serious power to clear the fence, it was amazing strike. I was glad he was at the other end."
Bhogle nudged him once again, and this time more directly. "You didn't need motivation today. I look at you and I still think Sunrisers sometimes, to be honest."
Warner also replied more directly but didn't reveal much. "I didn't need extra motivation. We've all seen what's happened before in the past and it was just to get a win on the board and get back in this contest."
The truth ultimately came out after the presentation when home broadcaster Star Sports got hold of Capitals' assistant coach and Warner's former Australia team-mate Shane Watson. He was asked if there was "just a little bit more against his old side?"
"It was a little bit more than just a little bit more," Watson said with a laugh. "He was certainly up and about in the team meeting all game, which in the end is the intensity you need to be at your best and Davey certainly brought that tonight. And everyone else fed off that energy as well. You see the way Rovman came in and he sort of thrived off that energy. Dave just drove the train with his energy, with his desperation to really prove a point. He certainly did that tonight.
"You could see the intensity he had tonight and he wanted to make sure that he did everything he possibly could, leave no stone unturned for tonight's game and he stepped up beautifully."
"This is a grudge match for David Warner," Kevin Pietersen said on commentary but Warner didn't take it too far and ensured the team's needs were above his. He was on 92 after 19 overs but not on strike for the final over. He could have easily reached a century against his former side had he planned it so with Powell, but when the two batters met mid-pitch before the final over, Warner told Powell to go for the big shots and not think about giving him strike.
"At the start of the last over I asked him if he wanted a single to try and hit a hundred but he said, 'listen, that's not how cricket is played,' and that I should try to smack it as hard as I can and I did that," Powell had said on broadcast after Capitals' innings.
When Warner was asked about not going for a century, he said: "100%. And I said to him I'm running two, no matter what and I don't care if I get run-out. If we get 200-plus…I thought 190 was a par score but anything over 200 [was good] and I said to him if he was there at the end, we could get 210-220. So I'm just glad he cleared the fence [in the last over]."
On a chat for, Watson then teased Warner by asking, "Do you think you'll have the same fire in your belly for the next couple of games as well?"
"I've always got fire in my belly, you know that Shane," Warner replied with a grin while scratching his head and Watson had a hearty laugh standing next to him.

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo