Sunrisers Hyderabad did not look anywhere near the formidable side that made many install them as favourites before the start of Indian Premier League 2019. Come to think of it, their batting was such a let-down against Mumbai Indians on their own home turf in Hyderabad that it did not resemble the side that had won three games in a row.
Chasing 137 for victory, the collective might of the SRH batting could not muster even 100. They were left licking wounds and with precious little time to introspect about the colossal failure late on Saturday. With a game against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali to be played inside 48 hours, they will have to find a quick solution.
Saturday presented a great opportunity for each of the Indian batsman in the Sunrisers Hyderabad ranks to play himself in and get into a groove. Every one of them had the opportunity to leave the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium with the satisfying feeling of having helped the team complete a tricky chase, but they would have to take disappointment to bed early on Sunday – and on the flight to Mohali.
It would be easy to mouth the common line under the circumstance: forget the events of Saturday night and focus on what needs to be done. But that would be completely ignoring the deathwish that afflicted the batsmen in the middle, crushed by pressure imposed on them by a crafty captain in Rohit Sharma and by sensible bowlers who hit the right length.
Having seen the Mumbai Indians batting not come to terms with the nature of the pitch and perish to ill-suited strokes, the home batsmen would have had a fair idea of the kind of shots to leave out of the armoury during the chase. Instead, it seemed as though they had either not been watching the drama being played out or expected the track to behave differently.
Of course, Kieron Pollard’s blitz at the end was decisive for MI but not everyone is gifted with such hitting skills. It was the kind of track that demanded smart thinking from the batsmen. If they believed that they could belt the ball out of the park and assert their superiority, they were completely off the mark – as was shown in the manner of their dismissals.
Vijay Shankar was out top-edging a pull to point, Manish Pandey pulled powerfully but straight to Rohit Sharma’s hands, Yusuf Pathan swept from outside the off-stump to top-edge a catch to square-leg while Deepak Hooda was bowled in attempting a big shot. Not one of them sought to cast anchor and play the nip-and-tuck game that may look boring but would have been effective.
It could be said out that the Sunrisers Hyderabad middle-order batsmen have not had adequate time in the middle, but this is IPL, high-voltage cricket that can be very demanding physically and emotionally. Each of its entertainers is expected to be sharp and battle ready every time he is picked to play in the XI. And there can be no escape from having to answer such collective failures.
It was hard for the mind not to fantasise about how a Virat Kohli or a Mahendra Singh Dhoni would have batted when chasing 137 for victory on a pitch that offered the faster bowlers some encouragement if they were prepared to bend their backs. Early evidence of that was available when Siddharth Kaul bounced out left-handed Krunal Pandya.
With Tom Moody and VVS Laxman available among the support staff to help the Sunrisers Hyderabad batsmen. It is strange that Vijay Shankar, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Deepak Hooda have collectively contributed only 202 runs this season, way below Warner (279) and Bairstow (262). Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the Indians have been punching well below potential.
With the star openers likely to leave Sunrisers Hyderabad for their respective homes before the IPL season heads to the business end, it will be interesting to see how their thinktank prepare not only the Indian component but also the likes of Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill to take over the aggressors’ role as soon as they are drafted into the XI.
Sunrisers Hyderabad will want the Indian batsmen to come to the party sooner than later. Unless Vijay Shankar, Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan optimise their scoring skills, the team will find it hard to either post winning totals or chase targets after if the overseas openers do not fire individually or collectively. One of the things they can try is to change the batting order a bit.
As long as the Hyderabad side ride a one-trick pony, rival teams will find it less challenging to go past them. It is time for Shankar and Pandey to show that they can enjoy and not be weighed down by the burden of steering their team to victory after the Warner-Bairstow show has been brought to a premature end.
There is no doubt that those who follow IPL intensely installed Sunrisers Hyderabad as a pre-tournament favourite because their combination conveyed a remarkable sense of balance. But for that to actualise in the coming weeks, the Indian component in the batting line-up will have to do a lot more than merely show up at the batting crease.