The state of Telangana is in the throes of a heat wave. Amid 40 degree conditions at the Uppal stadium, home team Sunrisers Hyderabad were literally facing the heat on Saturday. If there was any hint of respite, it came in the form of Eoin Morgan. The England skipper was the only silver lining for a team staring at the grim prospect of yet another season of strife in the Indian Premier League.
As soon as David Warner chose to bat against an incisive Kolkata attack, the Sunrisers Hyderabad team faced the music. Any hopes of a quick getaway were quickly laid to rest with yet another insipid performance from the two openers.
Warner, Shikhar Dhawan and Moises Henriques were all cooling their heels by the end of the first powerplay. Even in the sweltering heat, the gathering clouds and the resulting gloom were all too evident to a sparse crowd inside the stadium.
Empty seats inside the stadium reflected the team's grim prospects, but the fans braving the harsh sun deserved better application and effort from the Sunrisers. Deepak Hooda hung around for a while with Morgan, but when he departed in the 10th over, the home side were 52-4.
The England captain has been struggling in the middle recently, suffering a drought of runs. The 29-year-old had 97 runs from eight T20 internationals coming into the IPL. Despite England's relative success in the WT20, his own lack of form remained a significant concern.
Finally though, Morgan seems to have found some respite, unshackled as he is from the strain of captaincy. An undefeated 18-ball-22 against the Royal Challengers was largely inconsequential, but it was valuable time in the middle that seemed to help Morgan regain some touch.
And it came in handy against a quality attack on Saturday, when he stood like a lone warrior trying to revive a wounded unit ravaged by injury and defeat.
Morgan shaped his innings with a purpose and commitment that seemed lacking among the men who preceded him to the crease. The English captain was measured at the start, as he tried to stand ground and weather the storm. He scored just 17 off the first 24 balls he faced, before opening up in the twelfth over. He leaned into fullish deliveries from Sunil Narine to score back-to-back boundaries through the covers. It signaled the beginning of a productive period of play for the hosts.
Morgan's steady hand seemed to reassure Naman Ojha into playing an innings of responsibility. One man's confidence was rubbing off on the other, leading to a 67-run partnership, which offered a semblance of hope in an otherwise tepid situation.
After two straight defeats this season, the Sunrisers need a quick rethink. Tom Moody might want to assemble the team for a conversation with Morgan, who might help arouse a sense of duty toward this struggling Orange Army.
Warner needs to sit down with the senior players and the think tank comprising Moody, VVS Laxman and Mutthiah Muralitharan. The absence of Yuvraj Singh and Ashish Nehra and the delayed arrival of Kane Williamson compounds the poor start to their campaign.
The Kolkata Knight Riders exposed the lack of depth in the Hyderabad attack in a victory that seemed far too easy. The team composition clearly needs a change or two. There is a clear case for Mustafizur Rahman to open the bowling with Bhuvneshwar Kumar. It might even be worth trying Ben Cutting, at the expense of Henriques, as the team searches for success.
Either Abhimanyu Mithun or Tirumalasetti Suman could be tried in place of Hooda. Warner and Dhawan need to perform and do so quickly. The Sunrisers are toothless with a strong opening partnership. And if they have to extricate themselves from the bottom of the table, a rousing performance them is a dire need to lift the morale of this team.
Only two games into this season, Sunrisers are already in need of a revival. Morgan has produced a silver lining and the team needs to latch on to that glimmer of hope. A special effort is a dire necessity in the coming week, or this campaign could fall into a simmer even in the glowing heat of this summer.
The Sunrisers host the Mumbai Indians on Monday before traveling to Rajkot to face a rampant Gujarat Lions on Thursday.