In the Indian Premier League (IPL), with only four slots in the eleven allowed for overseas players, it is generally considered that the team sacrifices a fair bit of flexibility in team combination when an overseas player is made the captain of the side. However, it is a bit mitigated if that overseas player is undroppable based on the impact they have on the scoresheet. David Warner is one such, and so, Sunrisers Hyderabad, in appointing him as the skipper in 2016 did not have to sacrifice a lot.
But in 2017, with SRH picking Rashid Khan in the auction, and he coming through in the opening games, meant that if they had to include Mustafizur Rahman in the playing XI, had a choice to make between Moises Henriques and Ben Cutting. For their third match of this season, against the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede Stadium, the choice was made for them with Henriques too sick to play.
In 2016, as Warner piled on the runs, the middle order cobbled together mainly because of batsmen from India did not produce great numbers, but SRH's bowling made up for it, time and again. In Mumbai, after being inserted, SRH's middle order – comprising of Deepak Hooda, Yuvraj Singh, Ben Cutting, Naman Ojha and Vijay Shankar scored a combined 44 runs in 37 deliveries; the saving grace was Cutting's 20 off 10.
However, with Mustafizur and Rashid in the side, the tail that was already devoid of any striking power was further lengthened. The ill Henriques, who was in form at number three, had scored back-to-back fifties at strike rate of nearly 137 and SRH dearly missed him.
On a ground where generally there is good bounce, and with the dew supposed to set in for the second innings of the match, it was imperative that whichever team that was going to bat first, had to put up a tall score. With the XI they had available to them, SRH needed to win the toss and bowl first but the coin doesn't always go your way.
SRH were further inhibited by Shikhar Dhawan's uninspiring innings of 48 runs (off 43 deliveries). His season strike rate, at the end of three matches, is 116.86 and that is just putrid for a batsman who opens the innings. Dhawan doesn't have to look very far to see how badly he is going; just 22 yards across Warner has been blasting away at strike rate of nearly 167 for the year so far. According to ESPNcricinfo, Dhawan has a strike rate of 121 in the IPL and just 115 runs per 100 balls in the powerplay. Those sort of numbers may soon be out of place even in ODIs, and are definitely inferior in T20s.
At the end of the powerplay, Dhawan was striking at a positively subterranean rate of 46.6 (7 off 15), and it was all down to Warner to shore up the innings. Even as Dhawan scored 31 more runs in the next 28 deliveries – which again is quite poor in a T20 – it only added more to what was already a full plate for Warner. In the hunt for quick runs, Warner perished and exposed the middle order and SRH only managed 77 runs since his dismissal in the 11th over.
Since it was understood that SRH needed a big score to put Mumbai under any sort of pressure, as the dew was going to make batting easier and bowling doubly hard, Dhawan needed to be the aggressor and let Warner play his own game. It should have been the Delhi batsman who needed to take the risks to push the scoring rate allowing Warner to stay in the middle till the latter stages of the innings.
That Dhawan pottered around only made the absence of Henriques that much more stark. Even as Mustafizur struggle with the wet ball and a pitch that did not grip for his cutters to be effective and hence was taken for 34 runs in just 2.4 overs, SRH lost the game with the bat, and the blame must go to the poor output of Dhawan and the middle-order misfire.
It is still early in the season and SRH would have learned a lesson from this loss. That they cannot afford to lose a batsman from their middle order who is in form. They most certainly need the lower order hitting muscle of Cutting, and given the bowling form Rashid is in, the most natural choice – and the only choice – they have to make for the next match is to include Henriques, as he recovers, instead of Mustafizur. It sure couldn't hurt if the Indian batters in the middle also contributed, as should Dhawan too.
Please note: This is a corrected version of the copy. The error in the earlier copy have been rectified
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Updated Date: Apr 15, 2017 10:38:03 IST