With like-for-like replacements for most players, Sunrisers Hyderabad had all bases covered and deservingly won the last edition of the tournament. But can they repeat the feat this time around and be the first city to win the tournament for a record third time?
Last season overview
The eventual champions of the tournament began their campaign with two losses but won seven out of the eight games that followed. Skipper David Warner exhibited his batting brilliance and notched up one heavy score after another while Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Bangladeshi pace sensation Mustafizur Rahman proved match-winners for the team.
In this day and age, when the number of proven match-winners in each department of the game and their form on the given day decides the fate of any team, Sunrisers had them in plenty. While other teams suffered in some games, due to the lack of their better players, Sunrisers steered clear of any such fallibility due to the presence of unsung match-winners.
Although the team lost Ashish Nehra twice due to injury, the three-man management, which consisted of VVS Laxman, coach Tom Moody, and Muttiah Muralitharan kept faith in Barinder Sran, which in turn reaped rich dividends. The presence of Mustafizur Rahman was the icing on the cake, who provided the missing X-factor for the team to go the distance.
While Hyderabad needed to win one of their last two league fixtures to finish in the top two and give themselves two chances of making it to the final, they lost both and were left to take the more arduous route. Then, others who had hitherto been out of form stepped up to save the team. Warner failed in the eliminator, but Yuvraj Singh and Moises Henriques stepped up to stifle two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders. Their race was not dependent on any one player, rather, it was about the squad of 11 and deservingly, they won the title by beating batting-heavy Royal Challengers Bangalore in front of a packed Chinnaswamy crowd.
No one would underestimate them now, for sure. Coming into this edition, Sunrisers have a very good combination of quality all-rounders, menacing pacers, and have a perfect blend of young and experienced batsmen in their arsenal. In the form of David Warner, they have a seasoned campaigner and in VVS Laxman and Muralitharan, they have got two cool heads in the dressing room to make matters easy for the youngsters.
Last year, their bowlers rose to the occasion when it mattered the most and Sunrisers would hope for a similar performance this time around, as well. Mustafizur's presence is still not clear but he is certain to miss the tournament opener against RCB, as he is due to play the T20I series against Sri Lanka, which ends on 6th April. But still, SRH have the power in them as Ashish Nehra, Ben Cutting, and Bhuvneshwar Kumar have always been proven campaigners when it comes to T20s and if they can do well, others teams should beware of that.
Their fielding is one of the best, if not the best, among all the teams in the competition. In a 50-day, 60-game tournament, it is not a single factor like batting or bowling that is the determining or decisive factor. It can never be. So, on that front, Hyderabad, as a team, have all the ingredients to become champions- yet again.
But, the think-tank can’t sit happily, just thinking of emulating last year’s formula. They need to eradicate some major chinks in their armour. Last year, it was David Warner, who was firing on all cylinders and at the end of the campaign, he had scored 848 runs from 17 innings at an average of 60.57, strike rate 151.42 that includes nine half-centuries, and also a highest of 93 not out. Shikhar Dhawan was the second highest scorer for the franchise with 501 runs and then after daylight galore, you find Yuvraj Singh with 236 runs, who was the third highest run-getter. So, the gulf in the quality of the batting line-up is clearly visible. And with Warner struggling against spin bowling lately and Dhawan going through a bad patch in the domestic arena, the middle order batsmen need to bat well to make amends.
On the bowling front as well, Sunrisers have a lot of work to do. While they had released Trent Boult before the auction, now the biggest problem for them is in the form of Mustafizur Rahman, who has been advised by his national skipper Mashrafe Mortaza to skip the tournament to stay fit and available for international assignments. Although Chris Jordan and Ben Laughlin are capable of stemming the run flow, Mustafizur was a fine asset for the team and his absence would hurt the defending champions for sure.
Over the years, the local players in the franchise have risen to the occasion and reduced the burden on their senior folks. This year, too, SRH have stolen Tanmay Agarwal and Mohammed Siraj, who were pretty impressive in the Ranji Trophy. While their performances are not guaranteed, Sunrisers will find themselves at a precarious position if the seniors fail to step up to the occasion.
Probable starting XI: David Warner (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Moises Henriques, Yuvraj Singh, Naman Ojha (WK), Deepak Hooda, Ben Cutting, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Bipul Sharma, Ashish Nehra.
Apr 05 Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Royal Challengers Bangalore, Hyderabad
Apr 09 Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Gujarat Lions, Hyderabad
Apr 12 Mumbai Indians vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mumbai
Apr 15 Kolkata Knight Riders vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kolkata
Apr 17 Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Kings XI Punjab, Hyderabad
Apr 19 Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Delhi Daredevils, Hyderabad
Apr 22 Rising Pune Supergiants vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Pune
Apr 25 Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Bengaluru
Apr 28 Kings XI Punjab vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Mohali
Apr 30 Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Kolkata Knight Riders, Hyderabad
May 02, Delhi Daredevils vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Delhi
May 06, Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Rising Pune Supergiants, Hyderabad
May 08 Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Mumbai Indians, Hyderabad
May 13 Gujarat Lions vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kanpur