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David Warner: The bull returns


David_Warner_Sunrisers_Hyderabad_IPL_Australia_CricketAustralia's current openers in ODIs, Aaron Finch and Usman Khawaja, have been delivering with the bat match after match. With the 2019 Cricket World Cup around the corner, the duo has so far done everything right to make a strong case for their selection.

March 24 - the black day in Australian cricket history when the infamous ball-tampering scandal broke in Cape Town. Their Test deputy at the time, David Warner, allegedly asked Cameron Bancroft to use sandpaper on the ball. That led to Cricket Australia banning Warner for one year from state and international cricket. Due to his involvement in the ball-tampering scandal, he was not allowed to play in the 2018 IPL.

One year later, a changed Warner was getting ready for a big comeback. He was welcomed with open arms by his Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) family in Hyderabad, a city which he calls his second home. They were playing in the first fixture of IPL 2019's first double-header on Sunday. Considering the hot conditions in Kolkata during the first few hours, batting was never going to be easy.

A bundle of nerves, Warner was aware that a few hours later Australia were going to play their second ODI against Pakistan in Sharjah. Finch was coming off a brilliant century and Khawaja was in fine form too. If they once again gave Australia a flying start, it would only make Warner's comeback to the national team tougher.

Before a game, Warner is usually among the chirpy ones in the dressing room. But, on Sunday, it was different. He was very quiet. According to interviews, all he did before the start of play was drink pickle juice and go to the toilet to control his anxiety.

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) captain Dinesh Karthik won the toss and put SRH in to bat first. Warner walked into the field to open the innings with Jonny Bairstow, whom he may play against a few months later in the Ashes. But that was not the priority at the moment for the Aussie. His goal was simple - enjoy the cricket and give a serious shot at the World Cup squad, which will be decided in early April.

In the next hour or so, Warner did what he does best - producing a stunning knock of 85 from 53 balls - and it seemed like he had never left.

For the opening stand, the Aussie-English duo of Warner and Bairstow gave SRH a running start as they posted 118 runs before the latter was dismissed. It was Warner who dominated the partnership with 74 runs from just 43 balls. Bairstow played second fiddle as he walked back with 39 runs from 35 balls. Warner pulled, he cut, he drove, he slog-swept and he played every possible shot, all over the park, against the likes of Piyush Chawla, Sunil Narine and Lockie Ferguson.

As the overs passed, Warner grew in confidence.

The best of Warner was reserved for the overs after powerplay. That's when Kuldeep Yadav was introduced. It took just two deliveries for Warner to show Kuldeep his intentions. Warner reverse-swept Kuldeep's second ball of IPL 2019 for a four to the third-man boundary. In the next over, bowled by Andre Russell, he smashed the ball as hard as he could through covers and the reaction was even better - not a single KKR fielder even bothered to move.

Next ball of the same over, Warner brought up his fifty on his comeback, overall his 37th IPL half-century. He achieved it in the most intimidating manner - with both feet in the air, Warner sliced the quick short ball to the third man boundary for a four!

The southpaw did not play any thoughtless shots. He picked the shots and pierced the gaps with precision, attacking when the bowler delivered a loose ball. When he had a new batting partner in Vijay Shankar, Warner curbed his attacking as he watched the latter charge against the KKR bowlers. With seven overs remaining, Shankar switched gears as he went after Narine with a huge six over the square leg boundary. While Warner went for the occasional boundary, the two ran well between the wickets.

When Warner was dismissed, 15 runs short of a seventh T20 hundred, he simply walked off the field without any gesture of disappointment. The old Warner was not like this. His passion and hunger for runs always dominated his body language. However, this time around, it was different. He tried to immerse himself at the moment and show humility as the Eden Gardens applauded his knock. One could see a sense of satisfaction on his face.

He was out of sight for the last year, but he had always been around mentally on the cricket field. That's why, given the opportunity, he has shown the world that the tough times in the previous year have only made him stronger. He will value his place in any team where he plays more than ever and this would in turn help extract positive results.

A few hours later, Finch struck his second consecutive ODI ton and put up 200-plus runs with Khawaja for the opening wicket. Khawaja now has two centuries and four fifties in nine innings. The sudden improvement in their form has helped rejuvenate Australia in ODIs. While Finch and Khawaja have three more ODIs to strengthen their place in the opening slot for Australia, Warner has the whole IPL to get good practice and impress the selectors.

Not everyone is lucky enough to receive a second chance in life, or their career. No one realises it better than Warner. During SRH's innings against KKR, Warner was dropped twice but he always capitalised on the earned life and that would have surely boosted his confidence. After a rough year, the time has come for his cricket to return to being a routine in his life.

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