Barring a couple of hiccups in their early years of existence, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) have been one of the most consistent teams over the years in terms of finishing in the top four of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is concerned.
The franchise that stepped in to fill the void left by the Deccan Chargers — owners Sun TV Network taking over the Hyderabad franchise after Deccan Chronicle Holdings went bankrupt — began on a strong note with a fourth-place finish in the 2013 edition.
They then had to endure the disappointment of finishing sixth out of eight teams for the next two years, before announcing themselves by defeating Virat Kohli’s rampaging Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) side in the final of the 2016 edition to be crowned champions for the first time. David Warner, as a result, became the third Australian to lead an IPL team to title victory with this triumph.
Despite showing immense potential to repeat the 2016 act in each of the subsequent editions, SRH never quite were able to deliver when it mattered the most.
Occasionally it was just bad luck or the absence of key personnel, as was the case last year when the team was without Warner and Jonny Bairstow for the business end of the event. Other times, they simply were outplayed, as those who witnessed the 2018 final against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will be able to attest.
This year, however, it is a different ball-game altogether. The tournament takes place in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after the event was moved out of India due to the rising COVID-19 cases in the country. The fact that the matches will take place behind closed doors levels the playing field even further as all sides will start on equal footing with the home-and-away advantage being taken away from them.
However, the fact that the pitches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah are not very different from the ones in the subcontinent, and that it will have a lot of juice in it for the spinners does favour some teams more than the others. And with star spinner in their ranks in Rashid Khan (55 wickets for SRH; average: 21.69; economy: 6.55; strike-rate: 19.85), someone who has carved quite a reputation for himself with his white-ball exploits, the SRH camp will certainly be entering this tournament in an upbeat mood.
Spin may very well be SRH’s biggest strength heading into the 2020 edition of the IPL. Not only does skipper Warner have the advantage of Rashid’s guile and variations, which come in handy in the powerplay and death overs alike, but the Afghan can hope to find the ideal support from compatriot Mohammad Nabi and India left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem. Their purchase of West Indian all-rounder Fabian Allen in the auction last December gives them another option on that front.
And it’s not just the spin department where their overseas star power lies: In fact, it is all the more pronounced in their top order. The trio of Warner (Australia), Jonny Bairstow (England), and Kane Williamson (New Zealand) is without a doubt one of the most formidable top threes in the history of the league.
Openers Warner and Bairstow were particularly destructive last year as they played a major role in the team eventually making it to the playoffs; there were a couple of occasions where they single-handedly won the game for their team, as was evident in the record 185-run stand the pair forged in the 118-run thrashing of RCB.
Williamson, one of the ‘Fab Four’ in the current generation, provides rock-solid stability to Warner and Bairstow’s firepower. The Black Caps captain’s ability to not only bat long and handle crises with relative ease but to also switch gears should the situation demand it, and lead the outfit should Warner take a break, is what makes him an indispensable member of the squad.
As far as their middle order is concerned, the inclusion of Australian Mitchell Marsh to the squad will make for an interesting watch. Marsh, who was bought by the franchise for Rs 2 crore in the last auction, produced a couple of match-winning performances with the bat for the Aussies in the ongoing tour of England. Will SRH be able to include him in the XI on a regular basis remains to be seen, considering their regular top three and their main spinner are all overseas players.
If Marsh doesn’t make the cut, the likes of Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar and Nabi are more than capable of defending the fort should the team ever find itself in trouble after a top-order failure or a quick burst of dismissals.
Raw emotions from the players after getting back on the field after months
— SunRisers Hyderabad (@SunRisers) September 13, 2020
Bhuvneshwar Kumar will once again be given the responsibility of leading the SRH pace unit — comprising of Billy Stanlake, Sandeep Sharma, T Natarajan, Siddarth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed, Basil Thampi. Bhuvneshwar, who hasn’t featured in any form of competitive cricket since the T20I series against West Indies at home last December, will be hoping to rediscover his touch and assure the national selectors that the spate of injuries has done little to rob him of his status as India’s first-choice limited-overs seamer.
Sharma, who has enjoyed a couple of fruitful years since joining the franchise in 2018 (24 wickets; average: 28.54; strike-rate: 21.66) is expected to open the bowling alongside Bhuvi and share some of the responsibility in the tense death overs.
One of the biggest decisions the franchise took in the aftermath of the 2019 IPL was parting ways with their long-time coach Tom Moody who has been at the core of the team’s planning alongside people such as VVS Laxman, the team mentor, since its inception in 2013 (with Muttiah Muralitharan joining as bowling coach in 2015). It remains to be seen if fellow Aussie Trevor Bayliss, who had been appointed his replacement last year, can recreate the magic that led to an IPL trophy, a final and three playoffs appearances.
Bayliss, to his credit, did perform the miracle of taking over an England team that had experienced the lowest of lows after their first-round exit from the 2015 ICC World Cup, and transform them into world-beaters that would be crowned world champions at home four years later. Taking charge of a Sunrisers unit that is brimming with talent and confidence should be slightly easier in comparison.
SRH Squad for IPL 2020: David Warner (c) (overseas), Abhishek Sharma, Basil Thampi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Billy Stanlake (overseas), Jonny Bairstow (overseas), Kane Williamson (overseas), Manish Pandey, Mohammad Nabi (overseas), Rashid Khan (overseas), Sandeep Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem, Shreevats Goswami, Siddarth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed, T Natarajan, Vijay Shankar, Wriddhiman Saha, Virat Singh, Priyam Garg, Mitchell Marsh (overseas), Sandeep Bavanaka, Fabian Allen (overseas), Abdul Samad, Sanjay Yadav.
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