Spare a thought for Sunrisers Hyderabad. They fired their captain, axed him from the starting XI and antagonized their entire fanbase in a span of 24 hours in the hope of turning their season around, only for the entire tournament to get canceled.
To say that the SRH management’s actions left the fanbase pissed would be an understatement. Within minutes of the franchise’s now-infamous David Warner announcement, feelings of shock turned into anger and disgust. Loyal fans turned on the team that they only 10 minutes ago loved and adored, and a vast majority of the fanbase unmitigatedly hoped for the side to finish bottom and get thrashed in each of their 8 remaining games. Everyone pinned the blame on the management and rightly so - no matter how dire the situation is, you simply don’t treat the man who gave the entire franchise an identity like that.
However, the Warner fiasco was just a microcosm of the SRH management’s incompetence. For there were myriad events throughout the course of the season that explicitly indicated how the Sunrisers management had totally lost their plot, and why an implosion was inevitable. That SRH languished at the bottom after 7 games was partly down to the players, yes, but the architects of the franchise’s downfall were none other than their own management, whose shambolic decision-making throughout the course of the season set up the team for failure.
Right from the start of the season, we look at every inexplicable decision that the SRH management took, and point out how the blunder(s) ultimately led to the team’s demise.
Blunders that extended beyond individual games
Failure to zero in on the composition of the Top 4 before the tournament
Sunrisers cannonaded teams with the left-right combo of Warner and Saha up top in the second half of last season, and much to no one’s surprise, the pair started the season off for them. Interestingly, this meant a demotion for Jonny Bairstow, who slotted into the No.4 role that he’d been performing for England. Saha-Warner didn’t click in the first game versus KKR, but Trevor Bayliss saying that SRH were looking to “reward the guys that finished the tournament off last year" made many believe that they were going to persist with the same personnel in the games to come, and just throw Williamson into the mix once he was match-fit. Bizarrely, however, Saha was axed just two games later, versus MI, despite Williamson not making the starting XI. Bairstow was pushed back up top, Saha was replaced by rookie Virat Singh - who batted at No.4, in turn weakening the middle-order - and in the span of two games, the entire Top 4 had been restructured for the worse. This move not just showed the management’s lack of faith in a senior player like Saha, but also indicated how they simply had no trusted plan for the composition of the batting line-up.
Lack of faith in spinners not named Rashid Khan
For the vast majority of IPL 2020, SRH struggled to find a spinner who could complement Rashid Khan but then zeroed in on Shahbaz Nadeem as their candidate. Their handling of the second spinner this season, though, turned out to be an absolute catastrophe. Across the 7 games SRH, quite astonishingly, tried out five different second-spinners - Nabi, Mujeeb, Nadeem, Suchith, Abhishek Sharma - and no one barring Suchith was persisted with, in the role, for two games in a row. Nabi, Mujeeb and Nadeem were all axed after one game, while Abhishek, after impressing versus Punjab in Chennai, was utilized as a batting all-rounder against Delhi. None of these second spinners had their role defined - embodied by Nabi’s utilization in the RR game - and this led to unsettlement in a bowling line-up that was already marred by injury.
The shambolic mismanagement of Vijay Shankar the batsman
Vijay Shankar’s reputation is currently tarnished to the extent that he might not land an IPL contract next season. And the entirety of the blame, for the same, has to be pinned on the SRH management. Predominantly an accumulator, quite remarkably Shankar batted above No.6 just twice and was in the clash against Delhi sent in to bat at No.8, below Virat Singh, Abhishek Sharma, Kedar Jadhav and Rashid Khan. The Tamil Nadu man, over the years, has shown that he is quite a handy power-hitter when given the time to play himself in, yet SRH not only employed him as a finisher but at times ended up batting him below bowling all-rounders. How can you expect your middle-order to perform when you, through your decision making, time and again end up nullifying the strengths of your second-best Indian batsman?
The unjustifiable axing of Manish Pandey
Manish Pandey received flack after the first two games and rightly so. His decision making was poor, his intent was questionable and being a very senior batsman, his knocks simply weren’t good enough. But, notwithstanding his indifferent strike rate, dropping Pandey and replacing him with Virat Singh was an outrageous and preposterous decision that belied common sense and logic. For all the talk about his strike rate, Pandey, since moving to SRH, was always a heavy run-getter for the Orange Army, and what the management essentially did was swap him for an inexperienced rookie that guaranteed no runs AND batted at a far slower rate. You could curse your iPhone 6 for being slow, but is there any wisdom in dumping it and replacing it with Freedom 247?
Inexplicable in-game decisions that contributed to the team’s misery
Match 1: SRH vs KKR
Holding Abdul Samad back till the 19th over
Chasing 188, SRH lost their third wicket in the final ball of the 13th over and needed 86 off the last 7 overs to win the game, with them having 7 wickets in hand. There was a window of opportunity here to unleash young Samad but the management held him back and sent in Nabi. This was understandable to an extent as Nabi, too, is known for his explosiveness at the death. However, after Nabi perished in the final ball of the 16th over, with SRH needing 57 off the final 4, the management quite flabbergastingly sent Vijay Shankar to bat. Shankar eventually ended up scoring just 11 off 7, and though Samad (19 off 8) launched fireworks in the final two overs, his effort went in vain. This was exhibit one in the season of SRH having no clue how to effectively utilize their resources.
Match 2: SRH vs RCB
Promoting Samad ahead of Shankar and Holder in a chase of 150
After denying Samad a sufficient number of balls in the first game, the SRH management, in their second game, over-compensated and ended up promoting the youngster to No.5 in a situation that was tailor-made for Vijay Shankar and Jason Holder to succeed. SRH, at the time of Bairstow’s dismissal, needed 35 off 23 balls with 7 wickets in hand, all that was required was sensible, mature batting. Pandey lost his head on the very next ball but still, the cool heads of Shankar and Holder was exactly what was needed at that point. For some reason, though, the management promoted Samad, and the hot-headed right-hander perished attempting a six off his second ball to induce more panic. We cannot say with authority that the result would have been different had Samad not been promoted, but, ultimately, the SRH management erred with their judgement and paid the price for the same.
Match 3: SRH vs MI
Dropping Manish Pandey and promoting Virat Singh over Vijay Shankar
We went through why dropping Pandey was a terrible call, but the management somehow made the decision look worse by promoting Virat Singh ahead of Shankar. Chasing 151, SRH needed 80 off 11 overs and all they needed, at this point in time, was an experienced, level-headed batsman who could knock the ball around and give the strike to a well-set David Warner. In Vijay Shankar, they had one, but no, the management instead thought that it'd be beneficial for the side if they threw a youngster on debut in the line of fire. And yes, the inevitable happened. Apart from looking out of his own depth, Virat Singh ended up running David Warner out. Shankar played a fine hand (28 off 25) but lack of support meant that SRH ended up losing the game by 13 runs. Well, if only Shankar had someone like a David Warner with who he could have stitched a partnership with.
Match 5: SRH vs DC
Sending Vijay Shankar to bat at No.8
No, seriously. What did poor Vijay Shankar do for the management to treat him like a piece of meat? Again, chasing 160, needing 104 off 14.2 overs (RR 7.32) with Kane Williamson out there in the middle, all SRH needed was an experienced batter who could knock the ball around. But not learning their lessons from the Mumbai contest, the management yet again sent in Virat Singh at #4, and that too without any clear instructions. This time around he hurt the team, even more, perishing for a 14-ball 4. But the circus didn’t end here. All of Kedar Jadhav, Abhishek Sharma and Rashid Khan batted above Shankar, and the required rate was 13.03 by the time the Tamil Nadu man walked into bat.
Not opening with Jonny Bairstow in the Super Over
And yes, in the same game, the management made the heinous crime of not sending Jonny Bairstow to bat in the Super Over. Bairstow had blasted 4 sixes off 18 balls in the chase and was, by some distance, the most fluent batsman in the entire game, but for some reason, Bayliss, Moody & Co. thought that it’d be better to instead send an out-of-form Warner and tired Kane Williamson.
Match 7: SRH vs RR
The hideous usage of Mohammad Nabi
Mohammad Nabi was the not-so-lucky overseas player who had the responsibility of filling the shoes of David Warner and well, it can be said that the management (maybe Williamson could and should take a bit of the blame here too) made it impossible for the all-rounder to win over the fans. First, he was picked on a flat Delhi deck that had nothing for the spinners, and then he was made to bowl a solitary over in the 15th over against a well-set Jos Buttler and Sanju Samson. Needless to say, it turned out to be a day to forget for Nabi.
Promoting Kedar Jadhav over Nabi and Samad
What should a team do when they need 136 off 9.2 overs to stay alive in the tournament? Send their big hitters out to bat and ask them to go for broke? Nah, that’s the thought process of normal teams. That makes way too much sense and is far too logical. SRH are no normal side. Their management, with an anchor Kane Williamson already struggling to time the ball, sent in Kedar Jadhav with the required run rate close to 15. And yes, this despite the trio of Nabi, Samad and Rashid waiting in the sheds. Jadhav - who was not at fault here, mind you - scored a run-a-ball 19 and essentially handed the game to the Royals on a platter.
Did Warner have a hand in some of these decisions? Perhaps, being the captain, he might have. But that he admitted explicitly that it was the ‘selectors’ who dropped Pandey, and that the franchise, in the Warner press release, claimed that they were going to change their foreign combination, suggests that a vast majority of the decisions were made by the think-tank. It is undeniable that it’s far easier to review and criticize decisions in hindsight, but some of the calls the management took, as explained above, were baffling to the extent that they beggared belief. The SRH management antagonized their entire fanbase by disrespecting David Warner, but, through their unfathomable decision making, they set up the team for failure well before that.