SRH – The Goliath with the popularity of a David

The cash-rich, controversy-plagued hot property of Indian cricket will officially continue and the action shifts to the United Arab Emirates this season for the first half. Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, two of the strongest and well settled teams in the tournament have had their image take a strong beating due to corruption allegations. This makes the tournament wide open where there are no clear favorites. Although Kings XI Punjab is said to have the most balanced squad this season due to the likes of the inform Aussie trio of captain George Bailey, Mitchell Johnson and Glenn Maxwell as well as explosive batters such as Virender Sehwag and David Miller, the one team which has garnered relatively less attention out of all is the nascent Sunrisers Hyderabad.

On debut last season, the Sunrisers stunned many by making it to the playoffs. However, their poor Champions League performance was perhaps a blessing in disguise for the think tank comprising of Tom Moody, Kris Srikkanth, VVS Laxman and WaqarYounis who could also use their experience-fuelled cricketing brains to spot the chinks in the armor and rectify them. And boy they did so in the player auction last month! Any team would be fortunate to have by far the numero uno bowler in the world with them. Dale Steyn, reliable, efficient and quick as ever, is the X factor which is something many teams are lacking. Alongside him, Shikhar Dhawan was retained, having been rewarded for his consistency and unwavering aggression and thus made the captain of the team. But these two cannot by themselves make the Sunrisers rise to greater heights. There came the need of bigger names and thus David Warner and Aaron Finch perfectly fit the bill. The top three of Dhawan, Warner and Finch is perhaps the most dangerous of all in this year’s IPL, giving bowlers and fielding captains nightmares for sure.

The franchise has managed to regain their core unit of 2013. Dhawan and Steyn would be joined again by tremendously confident players at present such as West Indies’ T20 World Cup winning captain and all-rounder Darren Sammy, Amit Mishra whose comeback into the Indian team has been as smooth as silk, the Sharma duo of Karan and Ishant as well as the local boy Ashish Reddy. All of these seven have almost singlehandedly won Hyderabad one match at a minimum. They did lose out on South Africa’s terrific talents, JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock to Delhi Daredevils but instead imported five of their players this season. Warner was understandably an expensive buy, but they made up for it with Irfan Pathan for just 2.4 crores which turns out to be a bargain deal in contrast. Pathan solves their Indian all-rounder quandary which they had due to the presence of Thisara Perera in the past.

Manpreet Juneja could get more opportunities here to showcase his batting talent, while they decided to buy back a localite with sagging fortunes, Venugopala Rao. Naman Ojha, the wicketkeeper batsman was picked at the 11th hour of the auction as Hyderabad realized pretty late that they needed an apt replacement for Parthiv Patel.

Hyderabad’s only low point perhaps is the absence of powerful Indian batters apart from Dhawan, who is unfortunately not in sublime touch at the moment. However, it seems that they are intent on winning matches again on their bowling as Bhuwaneshwar Kumar with his medium pace and seam movement could complement Steyn’s lightening pace, swing and bounce really well in any conditions. Add Ishant, Irfan and Sammy to the fold and they give Hyderabad a dilemma of choice which is in a way a positive in case even one of them loses form. Amit Mishra and Karan Sharma know an art which not many modern batsmen can tackle well, leg spin. It is only Dhawan’s captaincy that there is a question mark, as it is how he utilizes his bowlers to the optimum and how well he knows them for setting the appropriate fields that will make the difference.

Some of the surprise picks however, could also turn out to be handy as immediate replacements such as Australia’s all-rounder Moises Henriques, Zimbabwe’s captain Brendan Taylor and West Indies’ lanky fast bowler, Jason Holder.

Their balance seems to be near to perfect, with most of their squad well versed by now with the little intricacies and tricks of T20 cricket. Hyderabad’s supporters would want Dhawan to do a Gilchrist, lead the team to the IPL title despite not originally being from the city and make it only the second team after Chennai to do so twice. Plus, if the Sunrisers achieve it, they will ironically do a Deccan Chargers by winning the title mainly on foreign soil and in the second season of its inception, exactly after five years.

Interestingly, in the last four seasons, thrice has the team that had finished fourth in one season has gone on to win the IPL in the following one. For instance, Chennai was ranked fourth in 2009 but went on to win in 2010. Kolkata finished fourth in 2011 but won in 2012 while Mumbai was fourth in 2012, but won in 2013. Amazing as it sounds, it would not be a shocker if the pattern continues to hold.

By: Dhruv Rupani

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