If David Warner’s shock Sunrisers Hyderabad axing didn’t make much sense before their latest match, it certainly didn’t become any clearer after.
Rajasthan Royals crushed the Indian Premier League cellar dwellers on Monday (AEST) by 55 runs as Warner watched on helplessly from the sidelines.
Warner was surprisingly dropped for the extra bowling option of Mohammed Nabi, while Manish Pandey took his spot as opener and Kane Williamson stepped in as captain.
All were powerless to stop the rot at Sunrisers, who have won just once in their seven matches this IPL season.
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Pandey made 31 from 20 balls, Williamson a pedestrian 20 from 21 while Nabi was tossed the ball for one over and was spanked for 21 runs.
He didn’t bowl a second.
Whatever Sunrisers had been lacking with Warner, they were certainly still without it against the Royals, who made 3-220 off the back of Jos Buttler’s outrageous 124 runs off 64 balls.
Sunrisers officials said the reason for dropping Warner — who had just become the first player in IPL history to hit 50 half-centuries — was for the sake of team balance.
But the true motives are being questioned, leading to a theory from Dale Steyn that Warner has ruffled too many feathers behind the scenes.
“There’s something going on there — I don’t know what’s going on there, really,” the South African great told Cricinfo.
“I don’t know whether David may have questioned some of the decisions they had made, maybe when Manish Pandey was left out. I heard him say something along the lines of it wasn’t his decision or it was out of his hands.
“Sometimes management don’t appreciate that.
“The captain of the team needs to take ownership of this squad and know who is going out onto the field, and sometimes that gets taken out of their hands.
“It seems like there’s definitely something happening behind closed doors that the public are not aware of.”
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It’s a theory shared by former Black Cap and commentator Simon Doull, who believes Warner fell out with coaching staff over Pandey’s axing earlier in the tournament.
“After what he said in that game about leaving Manish Pandey out, it was not his decision at all, he didn’t want to do it clearly,” Doull said to Cricbuzz. “And basically, you passed the buck, you blamed it on someone else and I think he has paid the price for that.”
Steyn said he believes that Sunrisers are now taking this chance to prepare for life without Warner, who has been with the club since 2014.
“I think this will be the last time we see David Warner in an orange army shirt,” Steyn said.
WILLIAMSON SAYS ‘ALL CARDS ON TABLE’
Nonetheless, new captain Williamson said “all cards are on the table” when asked if Warner could regain his place in the franchise’s XI.
Tom Moody, the Sunrisers’ director of cricket, told Star Sports before Sunday’s match: “We had to make a hard call and someone had to miss out, and unfortunately for Davey, this time it’s him.
“He was obviously shocked and disappointed. And we’d be disappointed if he wasn’t feeling that way.”
The former Australia all-rounder added: “But he has come to terms with the logic behind what we are trying to achieve from a team’s perspective and has been terrific since. He has rallied around the team and, more importantly, the team has rallied around him.”
Warner led the Sunrisers to their maiden IPL title in 2016, but lost the captaincy after his role in Australia’s infamous ball-tampering scandal in South Africa in 2018.
Warner, however, regained the captaincy last year.
This season the 34-year-old left-hander has two fifties from six innings, but he has come under fire for a relatively low strike rate of 110.28.
Warner himself rued his slow batting in the Sunrisers’ previous match against Chennai Super Kings and took “full responsibility” for the defeat.
Sunday was the first time he had been dropped from an IPL fixture on form grounds.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain told Star Sports: “It is a big decision because (Warner) is Mr Sunrisers. He has been a huge reason why SRH have had so much success over the years.
“He is out of form this season. He may be the second-highest run-getter, but batting at the top with a strike rate of 110, he himself admitted in that last game that he cost them the game.” But Williamson, asked after Sunday’s match about Warner’s prospects of returning to the team, said “all cards are on the table”.
— With AFP