A team that is perhaps as consistent at reaching the playoffs as Mumbai Indians is in winning titles, the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) certainly can count themselves among the big-ticket teams in the Indian Premier League. The ‘Orange Army’ after all, have missed out on the playoff spots only twice since replacing the other Hyderabad-based franchise — Deccan Chargers — in the 2013 season, winning the title in 2016 and finishing runners-up two years later in that period.
The last edition of the league, the final of which took place only five months ago, saw SRH seal last-minute qualification for the playoffs after collecting three wins on the trot. It was an impressive turnaround for a side that began their campaign with back-to-back losses and were at one point looking down and out with just four wins from 11 games.
And after handing eventual champions Mumbai Indians a 10-wicket thrashing in the final league game of the season, SRH suddenly looked like the momentum was in their favour as far as lifting the trophy at the end of the season. It ultimately took match-winning contributions from Shikhar Dhawan, Kagiso Rabada and Marcus Stoinis to finally halt them in their tracks and bring their season to an end in the second qualifier.
Let us address the steps taken by the Orange Army since that season. The former champions let go of internationals such as Fabian Allen and Billy Stanlake aside from the uncapped trio of B Sandeep, Sanjay Yadav and Yarra Prithviraj. While they were relatively quiet in the player auction and didn’t go slam-bang with their purchases like Rajasthan Royals, Punjab Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore did, their picks of Kedar Jadhav (Rs 2 crore), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Rs 1.5 crore) and Jagadeesha Suchith (Rs 30 lakh) will certainly help bolster the balance of the side, especially when it comes to slotting Jadhav in the middle order.
— SunRisers Hyderabad (@SunRisers) April 5, 2021
Jadhav had a season to forget last year as the sinking graph of his performances reflected the fortunes of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK), who for the first time since the inception of the league failed to make it to the playoffs. With a meagre 62 runs from eight games at an average of a little over 20, and the fact that he didn’t bowl a single delivery throughout the campaign, one could certainly be forgiven for thinking the batting all-rounder had made the last of his IPL appearances.
However, with a set of promising performances in the domestic events, including 193 runs in the last Mushtaq Ali edition at an average and strike rate of 48.25 and 133.10 respectively, the 36-year-old has breathed new life into his career, and he could get an extension provided he has a good season with Hyderabad. His introduction bolsters SRH’s middle-order that consists of proven match-winners like Kane Williamson, Jason Holder, Vijay Shankar Abdul Samad, Mohammad Nabi among others, and his off-breaks could come in handy for skipper David Warner, provided he is utilised in that role.
Among some of the other key changes to the squad this season is Jason Roy’s inclusion following Mitchell Marsh’s decision to withdraw citing bubble fatigue. Roy’s destructiveness at the top of the order has made him a first-choice English opener for the limited-overs formats, and though the South African-born batsman wasn’t getting the big scores like some of his teammates in the India series, he was responsible for getting his team off to a solid start more often than not. And while it will be difficult for Roy to break into an SRH top order that arguably is the most power-packed among all the sides, he could certainly be an ideal back up should Warner choose to deviate from Wriddhiman Saha or Jonny Bairstow as his opening partner, or gets injured himself.
What makes SRH such as well-rounded outfit that regularly counts among the title favourites is the enviable bowling options that provide a terrific backup to their star-studded batting lineup. On that front, one cannot ignore just how valuable a player Rashid Khan is with his wily leg-spin as well as his much-improved fielding and pinch-hitting skills. Rashid, along with captain Warner (548 runs), was one of SRH’s standout performers last season with 20 wickets with an economy of 5.37 that was above all else, and with Mujeeb, they now also have a decent off-spin-bowling option.
But the biggest talking point going into the new season, one that could ultimately prove crucial in their pursuit for a second IPL title, is the return of the champion seamer that is Bhuvneshwar Kumar from a lengthy injury break. Bhuvi was outstanding in the limited-overs fixtures against England, both with his immaculate line in the powerplay, his clever change of pace in the death overs as well as his handy batting skills, and the Sunrisers camp couldn’t be happier to finally get their leader of the attack back in full swing. Along with T Natarajan, Sandeep Sharma, Holder and Shankar, Sunrisers have all they could ever ask for as far as the pace options go.
While they will miss their home venue of the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, which hasn’t been included in BCCI’s list of venues for this year’s IPL, SRH boast of an all-weather squad that could adapt itself to both the slow and low wicket at the Chepauk, where they play a majority of their fixtures (5) this year, or the batting paradise that is the neighbouring M Chinnaswamy, where they will play their last two games.
Can SRH be the team that stops Mumbai’s juggernaut this year? As is the case with every edition, the ‘Orange Army’ start among the favourites. But with the return of their swing specialist and with a vast array of match-winning players, this could very well be Sunrisers’ year.
Full Squad: David Warner (c), Kane Williamson, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Manish Pandey, Sreevats Goswami (wk), Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Priyam Garg, Vijay Shankar, Abhishek Sharma, Abdul Samad, Virat Singh, Mitchell Marsh, Jason Holder, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Shahbaz Nadeem, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T. Natarajan, Sandeep Sharma, Khaleel Ahmed, Siddarth Kaul, Basil Thampi, Jagadeesha Suchith, Kedar Jadhav, Mujeeb-ur-Rahman.
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