SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) lower-order batter Abdul Samad showcased his finishing abilities to help the team overhaul the Rajasthan Royals (RR) total of 214-2 in Jaipur on Sunday, May 7.
Coming in at the fall of SRH skipper Aiden Markam in the penultimate ball of the 18th over, Samad played a crucial hand, scoring 17 runs off just seven deliveries with the help of two sixes. He smashed a six off the final ball of the match with four runs required to take the SunRisers home.
The win was SRH's fourth in 10 games and helped keep them alive for playoff qualification in an otherwise disappointing tournament.
The 21-year-old has been part of the SRH setup since 2020 but has impressed only in patches, scoring 354 runs in 31 matches at an average of 18.63 and a strike rate of 136.68.
However, SRH were high on the right-hander due to his raw power-hitting skills and backed the youngster by retaining him ahead of the 2022 mega-auction.
Abdul Samad is slowly but surely starting to repay the trust of the management this season, scoring 128 runs in six matches at an average of 42.67 at a strike rate of 128.
The big-hitting batter displayed impressive form for Jammu & Kashmir in last year's Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, scoring 187 runs at an average of 46.75 at a strike rate of 164.
An in-form Abdul Samad could be just what the doctor ordered for the SunRisers as they try to turn around their season and qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2020.
Let us look at three issues that an in-form Abdul Samad can help SRH overcome in IPL 2023.
# 1 Abdul Samad's presence helps SRH with having a powerful Indian finisher in the lower-middle order
SunRisers Hyderabad have struggled with their Indian batters in the last few years, particularly in the middle order.
The franchise invested heavily in Abhishek Sharma, Priyam Garg, Vijay Shankar, and Abdul Samad to help solve their middle-order issues. However, they could not live up to the billing in finishing off tight run chases or providing an explosive finish batting first.
Although Abhishek has been a revelation after being entrusted with the opening role, SRH has had to rely heavily on the overseas options of Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klassen, Harry Brook, and Glenn Phliips to shore up the middle order and lower middle order.
With spin playing a heavy role after the eight-over mark, the lack of an in-form Indian batter led to SRH's struggles to close games in the back end of run chases.
This resulted in losses to the Delhi Capitals, Mumbai Indians, and the Kolkata Knight Riders by less than 15 runs each.
However, the presence and form of Samad could be the missing link in helping SRH finish off tight run chases, which often play a crucial role between the teams qualifying for the playoffs from those missing out.
# 2 Abdul Samad's batting form can help SRH look for more overseas options to beef up its bowling
SunRisers Hyderabad's batting lineup has found it difficult in the middle overs to manipulate the field and provide big hits over the last couple of years, resulting in lackluster batting displays.
In an attempt to beef up their middle order with some firepower, SRH have used three of their four overseas options in the middle order with the likes of Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klassen, and one of Harry Brook or Glenn Phillips.
However, this has resulted in the team not fielding world-class T20 bowlers like Adil Rashid or Akeal Hosein in most games. Adding to their woes has been the injury to Washington Sundar, who is ruled out for the remainder of the IPL, putting the spin bowling onus on leg spinner Mayank Markande.
While Markande has impressed predominantly this season, it will be worth having multiple top-class spinners, especially in the second half of the season, as the pitches become increasingly slow.
With that considered, If Abdul Samad continues to perform in the lower middle order, It could help SRH field either Rashid or Hosein in place of one of the overseas batters in the middle order to strengthen their bowling, particularly spin bowling.
# 3 Abdul Samad adds another spin bowling option for SRH
Apart from his power-hitting abilities, Abdul Samad is also a decent leg-spin bowler that has been used sparingly by the SunRisers. In his IPL career, Samad has bowled only nine overs in which he has picked up two wickets.
However, with the injury to Sundar, Samad could be an option for SRH, particularly in the last few matches of the season, with the pitches expected to be slow and helpful for the spinners.
He has picked up only 12 wickets at the domestic level but could be used by SRH for one or two overs if needed on pitches assisting spinners.
If his batting form continues, Samad will likely become a permanent member of the playing XI, increasing his confidence to perform a minor role with the ball.