The fast-paced nature of T20 cricket has an underlying aberration. While the match is only of 3 hours’ duration, fours and sixes are scored at a brisk pace, and the faster the ball comes on to the bat, the faster it disappears, slowing things down to bring the game to a standstill is easier than it sounds.
Over the years, especially during the limited-overs matches played in the subcontinent, spinners have been used effectively to halt the momentum of the batting side and bog them down at the crease. More often than not, it has resulted in wickets falling as a consequence of the pressure built due to the relative difficulty when it comes to scoring runs off the slower balls on even slower and turning subcontinental wickets.
Emphasis on spinners in the IPL
The Indian Premier League has been no exception to the rule either, as spinners have been used to their full capabilities by IPL teams to change the momentum of the game during the middle overs. Spinners like Harbhajan Singh, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Shane Warne, and Muttiah Muralitharan have been extremely successful over the years for their sides.
It is for the same reason, that during the auctions the franchises go on a bidding war against each other when it comes to buying spinners, and relatively unknown cricketers at the time such as Pawan Negi, KC Cariappa, and Ravindra Jadeja were sold for hefty amounts.
Each season, every team fields at least one specialist spinner in each of its playing XIs, as they are, especially on slow wickets, considered to be crucial members of the line-up. Teams like the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Delhi Daredevils have been heavily reliant on their spinners for success.
However, in a significant departure from the trend, and breaking the theory that spinners are the keys to success, perhaps the most underrated side this season and the one that has emerged as the team to beat over the past few games, the Sunrisers Hyderabad have succeeded without a specialist spinner.
SRH’s four-pronged pace attack
Led by David Warner, their captain, who has also been one of the top run-scorers this season, the Sunrisers have defied all odds and have reached the top of the points table, despite a shaky start that they had to their campaign.
As if they were playing on abrasive Australian surfaces, SRH have preferred an all-pace attack on most occasions, and it has worked wonders for them. Ashish Nehra, Barinder Sran, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, and Mustafizur Rahman have knitted together a bowling partnership that has been difficult to tackle.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar is the current purple cap holder with 14 wickets from 10 matches, while his bowling partner, the Bangladeshi young sensation, Rahman, playing the same number of games, has accounted for 13 wickets.
Nehra, the Indian veteran who has only blossomed with age, has taken 8 wickets from 6 games, even after suffering a groin injury during the course of the tournament, while Sran, the young Indian cricketer has taken 9 wickets from 8 games.
Add to that the bowling exploits of Moises Henriques who has taken 7 wickets from 10 games with his medium-pace bowling apart from scoring 107 runs, and you would find that Hyderabad have been completely dependent on their fast bowlers.
Pacemen bringing balance to the side
It isn't that other teams do not feature fast bowlers and that they haven't been able to perform. Rather, it is the fact that SRH have pacers who can bowl equally well, both with the new ball, as well as at the death.
In Bhuvneshwar and Nehra, they have two of the best swing bowlers in the league as they have the capability to swing the ball both ways, whenever the conditions are assisting. Mustafizur, on the other hand, is an all-overs bowler, who is equally potent with his cutters, slower ones, and yorkers at all stages of an innings.
Bhuvneshwar and Nehra also double up as brilliant death-over specialists with their accurate yorkers at the fag end of the innings, an example of which was seen in their 10th game, against the Rising Pune Supergiants, wherein Nehra bowled an excellent over against MS Dhoni, and defended 14 runs that were required by RPS in the last over.
Bhuvneshwar’s yorkers have also been the talk of the town over the past few matches, as he has, on many occasions, bowled accurate toe crushers between overs 17-20.
Sran has also bowled decently with the new ball, and his extra pace, as well as the bounce that he extracts with his height, has been tough to handle at times.
Such has been the domination, both on the league as well as on the wicket-share of all wickets taken by the SRH bowlers, that only 3 wickets have been taken by bowlers other than the five fast bowlers mentioned above.
What this means is that not only have Hyderabad zeroed in on a settled bowling attack to feature in the playoffs, qualifying for which looks to be a strong possibility for them, but they have also featured three Indian fast bowlers to complete their bowling attack, thereby allowing the space for an extra batsman or an all-rounder, considering the four-player cap that exists on the foreign players and the fact that their captain occupies one of those four slots.
All four fast bowlers- Nehra, Bhuvneshwar, Mustafizur, and Sran feature amongst the top 20 wicket-takers this season, with Bhuvneshwar and Mustafizur finding themselves in the top 10.
Hence, the Sunrisers, partly because of the lack of quality spinners in their squad, and partly because of the trust that they have shown towards their fast bowlers, have busted the myth that IPL teams need specialist spinners to succeed in the tournament.