Sunrisers Hyderabad's star opener David Warner is back in the 12th edition of the Indian Premier League after missing the last edition due to the ban imposed on him by Cricket Australia for his involvement in Sandpaper Gate.
While the suspension didn't include club games, the IPL governing council felt it was best that Warner along with former Australia skipper Steve Smith miss the 11th edition of the cash-rich league.
Now, with the act of shame behind him, the Australian is as eager as ever to scale back up the dizzy heights that saw him reign supreme as one of the most destructive batsmen in world cricket. And he has the backing of his teammates who have welcomed him with open arms.
Warner - now hipster-bearded - might have physically skipped the league in 2018, but teammates and support staff say that he was there for them over messages and phone throughout the season. In fact, he himself revealed that he was a part of the group chat and would constantly motivate the team.
The statement was seconded by Yusuf Pathan on Saturday when he said that Warner made his presence felt every moment despite being away from the field.
"He did not feature in the team but he was always with us," says teammate Yusuf Pathan.
Team mentor VVS Laxman, whom Warner thanked for the support, said on Friday that the former Aussie vice-captain looked in superb rhythm and is raring to go.
"He is totally fit and raring to go. He has really worked hard on his fitness and also what really amazed me was the kind of rhythm he showed from the first practice session," Laxman said.
Stumper Wriddhiman Saha also welcomed Warner with open arms, saying he became a better player in the Australian's company.
"There is no doubt that Warner is a champion player. The team is definitely looking forward to having him take the field for us. A player like him doesn't come every day and it is an honour to be playing with him," Saha had told IANS.
"While I have also played against him, getting to know him from up close and seeing how he prepares for games and his work ethics also makes you a better player."
The IPL will also be a platform for Warner to get some runs under his belt before the all-important World Cup as national coach Justin Langer has already sounded him and Smith that their performance in the cash-rich league will be closely followed.
Warner underwent an elbow surgery in January during the Bangladesh Premier League, but the 32-year-old made a roaring comeback for his Sydney club Randy Petes with a 77-ball hundred in a one-day game earlier this month.
Former Australia skipper Ricky Ponting believes that it will not be easy for the duo to win their place back in the World Cup squad and Shane Warne recently added that English crowds will "absolutely give it to the disgraced pair during the showpiece event.
But for now, it is all about returning to the league that saw Warner lead the Sunrisers to their maiden title in 2016 and follow that up with some quality knocks in 2017 as he finished as the leading run-getter for the team in 2017.
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted at email@example.com)
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