There was something about pressure in the Indian Premier League that makes many a Sunrisers Hyderabad batsman leave clarity in decision-making in the dugout during their defeat by Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday evening. Their fourth loss in five games meant that they would spend on Sunday, praying for Mumbai Indians to beat Kolkata Knight Riders.
They would really not need depend on other teams to extend their stay in IPL 2019 had their batsmen played more sensibly. It was just as well that skipper Kane Williamson found his touch to top-score with an unbeaten 70 and guided the team to a reasonable 175 for seven in 20 overs. His flurry of boundaries off Umesh Yadav’s final over gave the attack something to bowl with.
Batsman after batsman came and fell to big shots, making it an unseemly procession. It was almost as if each of them walked in with a self-destruct button stitched on to their apparel. The urgency to play the glory-or-bust strokes was something that afflicted nearly every batsman who followed Martin Guptill to the crease, but that is not something that many would understand.
Like moths drawn to a flame, each batsman kept his tryst with a blotched big shot. The ability to think clearly through pressure was sorely missing and, from across 20 yards or so, even Williamson could not drill into their minds that it was important not to fritter away wickets (and dot deliveries along with them). They appeared unfamiliar with the ability to place their shots.
It was as if they were all alien to such pressure. Of course, Sunrisers Hyderabad needed a win in Bengaluru on a track known to usually favour batsmen to such an extent that 10 runs an over would be par for the course. This was in itself an ally to the Royal Challengers Bangalore and they were able to watch batsmen make wrong decisions under rising stress.
Soon after Guptill fell to Washington Sundar, Manish Pandey sought to convert the length of a delivery by rocking on the backfoot and to dispatch it over mid-wicket. All he managed to do was to bring Shimron Hetmyer to the limelight for the first time in the evening – the youngster lunging forward to complete a catch inches off the ground at deep mid-wicket.
Vijay Shankar had clobbered two sixes off Washington Sundar and fell in search of a third, top-edging a sweep-pull and immediately regretting frittering away a chance to make a significant contribution to the team’s cause. He had just about started the rebuild phase for Sunrisers Hyderabad when he was consumed by his search for more.
Yusuf Pathan, Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan forgot that, after seven under-productive games, Williamson had found his touch but each of them wanted to belt the leather off the ball. All they needed to do was find the gaps and take a single for their captain to dominate the bowlers. There was an utter lack of understanding of the game situation.
The New Zealander showed that it was possible to take the score towards a competitive total with his clinical hitting off Umesh Yadav in the last over. If only any of the other batsmen had decided to stay and give him more of the strike, Sunrisers Hyderabad may have finished with a few more runs than the 175 that they managed eventually and made a better match of it.
It is to the credit of the visiting team’s new ball bowlers that they made it tougher for Royal Challengers Bangalore than the 176-run target really was. The three wickets in the first three overs induced some excitement but Shimron Hetmyer and Gurkeerat Singh hit maiden half-centuries, shared a breezy century stand – the second highest this season – and put paid to those aspirations.
On a track on which Royal Challengers Bangalore’s leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal finished with figures of one for 24, teasing a batsman of Pandey’s caliber, Sunrisers Hyderabad may have been let down by Rashid Khan conceding five sixes and ending up with one for 44 in his four overs. But then, it was never going to be an easy track to bowl on.
And with Pandey letting go of a chance to take a catch off Hetmyer at deep mid-wicket, there really was no insurance against the sensible approach that he and Gurkeerat Singh embraced on Saturday night. There really was no doubt that Sunrisers Hyderabad were left gasping for a few more runs to defend and a fond wish that some of their own batsmen had used this maturity.
As left-arm paceman Mohammed Khaleel took two wickets and gave away just five runs in the penultimate over, the 11 Sunrisers Hyderabad men on the field, those sitting in the dugout and the countless fans watching in the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and beyond were all left with a common thought: how wonderful it would have been had their batsmen not gifted their wickets away.
Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli said he sensed the Hyderabad team ease the pressure a bit when the home team was 20 for three in 2.5 overs. He suggested that the sight of unheralded Hetmyer and Gurkeerat lulled Sunrisers Hyderabad a bit. Truth was that they did not have enough runs on the board in the first place.
Indeed, there is something about pressure that even the most assured come up short.