Sunrisers Hyderabad have been one of the most consistent teams in Indian Premier League history in recent times, reaching at least the playoffs on four consecutive occasions. They won their maiden trophy in 2016 under the leadership of David Warner, were defeated by Kolkata Knight Riders in the Eliminator the following season and lost to Delhi Capitals in the eliminator and Qualifier 2 in 2019 and 2020 respectively. And heading into the 14th season of the tournament, SRH, who were among the least active franchise in the February auction, given their side, show the potential to emulate the same.
Having retained their core team from the previous season, SRH roped in only three players at the auction in Chennai, as back-ups for their preferred XI. The team, as usual, has an impactful opening combination and equally impactful second-choice players, a batting lineup that runs as deep as No.8 and a daunting bowling lineup, equally threatening to that of the Mumbai Indians
However, SRH have a few too many concerns to scratch their head over, the primary being lack of middle-order hitters and specialist finishers in the lineup. SRH also have too many strong top-order options that can lead to disrupting the balance of the team. The 2016 winners also lack in able supporting options for Rashid Khan despite having plenty of spinners in the squad.
BOWLERS PICK THEMSELVES:
SRH have always been a bowlers-dominated team, and hence have mastered the art of defending low totals. Remember SRH restricting Mumbai after setting a target of just 119? SRH had shown several such instances since 2018, orchestrated by their two lead bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid.
In 2020, SRH unearthed yorker-specialist T Natarajan, a left-arm pace option. And Sandeep Sharma has forever been SRH's unsung bowling hero with his PowerPlay specialty, better than that of the daunting Jasprit Bumrah.
In the last IPL, SRH were the only other team than Mumbai Indians to concede less than 7.5 runs in the PowerPlay and strike in less than 25 balls. Their respective middle-overs numbers were the best. However, SRH failed to keep the momentum alive with the death overs where their respective numbers ascended to the highest ever among all the eight teams.
SRH will heave a sigh of relief return at the return of Bhuvneshwar's form, who in his first limited-overs series since December 2019, registered an economy rate of just 8.50, conceding only three boundaries in four overs with a dot-ball percentage of 50.
In IPL, since 2017, Bhuvneshwar is among the six bowlers to strike in less than 12 balls and concede less than 10 runs per over in the death overs. Sandeep is also part of the list.
Besides, SRH also have a backup bowling option in Siddharth Kaul and Billy Stanlake and spinners include two slow left-arm orthodox bowlers in Shahbaz Nadeem and Jagadeesha Sucith, a right-arm offie in Mujeeb Ur Rahman, spin all-rounder Mohammed Nabi and two young part-time options in Abdul Samad and Abhishek Sharma.
TOO MANY TOP-HEAVY BATSMAN
Warner, Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Kane Williamson, Wriddhiman Saha, Manish Pandey, Virat Singh - that is as many as seven top-order batters that SRH have in their 25-member squad and all have a high possibility of featuring in the playing XI. SRH's top-order (1-4) in the playing XI scored 80.29 per cent of the runs in IPL 2020, the tally being the second most after Mumbai Indians.
The middle-order (5-7), however, remained ineffective, scoring 18.6 per cent of SRH's total runs last season, the tally of 446 runs being among the worst. Their poor down-the-order batting is clearly signified by their death-over scoring rate of 8.62 runs per over, the worst for a team and the only side to score at below nine runs per over. Their frequency of boundaries (every 5.36 ball) is also the worst recorded number for any side last season.
Kedar Jadhav, an Indian middle-order batsman, has been a new addition to the SRH squad. He scored 62 runs in five games for CSK last season at a strike rate of 93.9 before being criticised and later benched. However, in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali season, he scored 192 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 133 with two half-centuries.
RASHID KHAN AND...WHO ELSE?
SRH have five matches slated to be played at the MA Chidambaram Stadium where spinners have been the most effective bowling variety. But barring Rashid, SRH have no other T20 specialist spinner. The franchise did acquire Mujeeb in the auction earlier this year, but the spinner had returned with ordinary numbers in IPL 2019 and 2020 where he played a combined seven games for Punjab. Nabi seems to be the only other potent option in such scenario, and hence can be used to replace Jason Holder.
SRH also need to chalk out a plan for the middle overs where the franchise is entirely dependent on Rashid. In IPL 2020, Rashid had the joint-most wickets in that phase and the second-best economy rate. The next best was Natarajan, who conceded at 6.88 runs per over in picking three wickets in 15 innings.
PREDICTED PLAYING XI
The Warner-Bairstow pair created quite a sensation in IPL 2019 with the two breaking plethora of records with their hundred-run stands. But the English opener was dropped to accommodate an all-rounder during IPL 2020 and give SRH five-bowling options, hence giving rise to an unprecedented and an even daunting opening combination on Wriddhiman Saha and Warner. The pair scored at 10.46 runs per over as openers, the quickest ever among all opening pairs in IPL history and single-handedly revived SRH from the bottom half of the table to a playoffs qualification.
SRH should hence retain Warner and Saha as their openers and go with Kane Williamson and Manish Pandey as their next batters in the lineup. The bowlers, as mentioned, pick themselves, hence forming a combination of Bhuvneshwar, Rashid, Sandeep and Natarajan. This leaves the middle-order to be decided. Jason Holder picks himself as the all-rounder and the young Samad and Abhishek as the two finishers.
Predicted XI: Warner, Saha, Kane, Pandey, Samad, Abhishek, Holder, Rashid, Bhuvneshwar, Sandeep, Natarajan.