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Cricket news - Restraint before frenzy, the Warner way

David Warner scored his maiden T20I century - off 56 balls

If you haven't heard of "dopamine fasting" yet, then this would be a good time as any to go wise up to it. For, chances are you could need it. We might all do. The irony is that it's a concept that's risen from the very place responsible for most of our dopamine addiction, Silicon Valley.

Dopamine for the uninitiated of course is the neurotransmitter in your brain that regulates your feeling of pleasure and happiness while also helping you focus and even identify things that interest you. But we are presently in an era where we run a risk of being too hooked on to the incessant forms of technology and social media, and subsequently overstimulating our brains to such an extent that our craving to restore the dopamine level leads to inevitable addictions.

And it's to somewhat control this stimulus that a psychologist in San Francisco introduced "dopamine fasting", which involves taking a voluntary break from not just your smart phones and laptops but any external source that activates this particular chemical hormone, be it Twitter, food or sex, not necessarily in that order.

And if T20 is the format that you'd think generates the maximum dopamine-rush in the cricket world, David Warner must certainly rank rather high up when it comes to cricketers who stimulate it amongst those watching the sport. But it's been a slightly different Warner ever since he's returned for Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2019 from serving his 12-month ban. It's not like he's gone on a fast of any sort. His 692 runs at 69.2 came at a strike-rate of 143.86 - slightly better than what he'd managed during his previous IPL stint two years prior - while the 647 runs at the 50-over World Cup came at a fair clip too.

If anything, it's more like Warner's gone more selective than celibate since coming back, where he prefers to ease himself in and be more in control to start with before getting into his customary frenzy, like he did against Sri Lanka at the Adelaide Oval and has been doing very consistently since the start of the IPL. His decision to play the waiting game at the start of his innings came under immense scrutiny during the World Cup, mostly because it just seemed unnatural for a batsman of his overactive tendencies.

But it's this more measured approach at the start- ala Rohit Sharma - that has seen Warner attain an unprecedented level of consistency in white-ball cricket this year - even if Test cricket seems blighted at the moment by the sight of Stuart Broad running in from around the wicket. His maiden T20I century against the hapless Lankans on Sunday (October 27) has now taken his tally in white-ball cricket this year to 1443 runs at 68.71. And it was again a knock built on guarded restraint at the top to set up the unrestrained assault towards the back-end, much like a majority of his successful stints in the middle this year.

To start with, Warner's first boundary didn't come before the 10th delivery he faced, at which point he was batting on 7 off 9 balls. By this time, his opening partner Aaron Finch had already raced to 24 off 17 balls, having clubbed five characteristically meaty boundaries off the Sri Lankan pacers. And the three deliveries leading up to Warner's first four, a cross-batted swipe off Kasun Rajitha, came on the back of three dot deliveries, two of which the left-hander fended off watchfully.

It was a repeat of what we saw repeatedly pan out during the World Cup in England with Finch taking on the role of the aggressor at the top and Warner playing second fiddle and looking to drop anchor. Of course, he quickly caught up with Finch over the next two deliveries from Rajitha - smashing the seamer for a four and a six. Warner, though, would later reveal that his recent approach of letting Finch do the heavy-lifting to start with wasn't always based on design, but had more to do with the dopamine-overdrive the Australian white-ball captain seems to be on at all times.

"It's not a conscious effort. But if he gets three or four away, and I get only one ball at the other end, then I've only faced a couple of balls. It's very hard to get rhythm. If I get the ball there that I can put away, I can obviously do that. But you've obviously got to play that situation. If he's hit two or three boundaries and gets off strike, you've already won the over. There's no need for me to go hammer and tongs. I can just play the way I do and get him on strike and that's how it pans out. It always pans out like that because he goes very hard and clears the fence a bit more than I do," he'd say.

It's in the way Warner paced his innings post that boundary glut in the Rajitha over that however proved to be a great indicator to the more risk-free avatar he brings to the crease of late. While his next boundary came only 10 balls later, his focus in the interim was on either "giving the strike back" to Finch or finding gaps in the large expanse of the Adelaide Oval outfield and scampering up and down the pitch - as four singles and two doubles would suggest.

Then came another boundary barrage. He smashed three fours and two sixes off his next 8 balls to race past 50 before another brief spell of quick singles and twos as Glenn Maxwell took over in going for the jugular from Finch at the other end. Warner only hit two fours and a six of the following 18 balls he faced while Maxwell teed off, and he continued to in fact turn the strike over before ensuring he got to three figures for the first time in this format off the last ball of the innings.

And despite playing catch-up with his partners he still got there off just 56 balls. Warner would later emphasize how running hard and finding gaps that will be the blueprint for success with the bat during the T20 WC next year, just the way he did it.

"That's the element to our game here in Australia if you want to win the World Cup next year, you've got to run really hard between the wickets. We've got big boundaries here. It's not like in the IPL where if you don't want to run, you can stand and deliver. I know a lot of teams use those boundaries and there's going to be a lot of off-pace into the wicket, and a lot of short balls into the wicket, and it's about us as batters working it out. There're going to be very good wickets so as batters you don't need to over-hit the ball here in Australia. As I said before, it's about running and picking the gaps," he said.

For all his running between the wickets though, the highlight of his knock was the whippy flick he produced off the front-foot to a fullish-length delivery at his pads from Rajitha that carried well over the deep mid-wicket fence.

"It's something I play quite often, especially in India given the boundaries are quite smaller there on some sides. It's something you've always got to have in mind because a lot of bowlers are now bowling to the left-hander's hips for example. You're going to get a lot of that in the game. So you try and practice it. One thing from a batter's point of view is you have to commit to your shot, then your timing will come into it," he said.

Warner certainly seems very committed to his new cause in the shorter formats, which is working out perfectly for Australia and him at the moment. It might not quite be a dopamine fast, but it certainly seems to be a very balanced diet currently, and till the time it lets him feast on the bowling the way he is, there should be no complaints.

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