David Warner isn’t going back to the Indian Premier League for redemption. In a delayed and disrupted season caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Warner wants to return in a bid to lead Sunrisers Hyderabad to another title.
A 12-month ban from Cricket Australia for his role in a ball-tampering scandal during a test series in South Africa in 2018 cost Warner any chance of ever leading his national team, and also led to him being dropped as captain of the Sunrisers.
He returned from the ban last season to lead the IPL in scoring with 692 runs, and then returned to full international cricket for Australia in the one-day format at the World Cup in England.
“I don’t see it as a redemption tale,” Warner said in a teleconference Tuesday, answering a question about the club’s decision to restore him to the captaincy for the 2020 tournament which is expected to be staged in the United Arab Emirates. “I just see it as an honor to captain the Sunrisers.”
Warner led the Sunrisers to the IPL title in 2016 and played at the club last year under New Zealander Kane Williamson.
“It’s great to be back and leading, but everyone in that team is a leader in their own right,” Warner said, adding that he and Williamson regularly bounce ideas off each other. “From where I sit, nothing is different. I still considered myself as a leader when I was there last year. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a ‘C’ next to your name or not.”
Warner’s return to Test cricket was last August, and he initially struggled as Australia held onto the Ashes in England. But he returned to his run-scoring best on home soil, posting three centuries including a career-high 335 not out, as Australia dominated test series against Pakistan and New Zealand in the southern summer.
But then his career was put on hold again when international cricket went into shutdown in March as the COVID-19 outbreak spread.
After another enforced break, the 33-year-old opener is desperate to get back and play as much cricket as he can. And that’s important, because the end of 2020 is likely to be a crush of cricket in all formats starting with a limited-overs series in England.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India is planning on staging the IPL in the UAE, likely starting Sept. 19 and running into early November. Warner is confident the Australian and English players involved in the ODI series can be ready to play in the IPL from about Sept. 25, depending on what regulations are in place for the bio-security bubble planned amid COVID-19.
Australia is then set to host India for a four-test series, but the schedule may have to change depending on the different regulations in states across the country during the pandemic. Melbourne has gone back into lockdown because of a recent surge in COVID-19 infections, already putting the city’s status as host of the annual Boxing Day test in some doubt.
Warner said cricket organizers will just have to be flexible, and follow the lead of other sports such as the National Rugby League and the Australian Football League which have moved clubs and game venues at short notice to keep seasons going.
For now, though, Warner’s focus is on getting to England. He thinks the Australian players will have an advantage over the England team, which has been living, training and playing in the so-called bio-bubble for the on-going test series against the West Indies and will continue to do so for upcoming series against Ireland and Pakistan.
“We’re going over there fresh and with an open mind, keenness to play cricket and not in that bio-bubble yet,” Warner said. “It’ll be the same thing for us in the (Australian) summer … good to get conversations going to see what we’ve got to prepare for this summer as well.”