IPL 2018: SunRisers Hyderabad season review
SRH won 9 of their first 11 games and became the first team in IPL 2018 to qualify for playoffs and clinch the top 2 seed with still three games left. Then the black omen started. They lose their next four games, the final three regular-season games and the qualifier 1 in the playoffs.
Of those four losses, two of them came against the number 2 team and their final opponent the Chennai Super Kings, including the qualifier 1 in a heart-breaking fashion. But Rashid Khan made sure that SunRisers have one final opportunity to beat their kryptonite CSK. But CSK completed the sweep against SunRisers by beating them by 7 wickets in the final becoming the first team ever to beat another team 4-0 in a single season.
Let's see how the SunRisers Hyderabad have fared in IPL 2018 and what their future holds for them.
Top-flight Top Order
When David Warner was suspended just two weeks before the start of the tournament, SRH batting had fallen into a flux. Even though Williamson was named captain, he is nowhere near to the striker that Warner is. He is considered to be more of a Test player than a T20 batsman. But Williamson has proved critics and everyone wrong by keeping the Orange Cap at home. He proved you don’t have to be a strong hitter to be a good T20 batsman. He showed his pure class and amazing wrist shots with consistently finding open spaces for boundaries.
Dhawan, on the other hand who had an amazing start against Rajasthan Royals, had an injury in the very next game against the Kolkata Knight Riders and was sidelined for the next couple of games. He came back but took time until the last few games to get his groove back just in time for the playoffs.
Wridhiman Saha and Sreevats Goswami played a few cameos opening with Dhawan but couldn’t convert them to big scores. Alex Hales, who replaced the injured Billy Stanlake in the playing XI for a few games to open with Dhawan, had a string of starts but couldn’t convert those starts to big scores and eventually became an overseas cap casualty paving way for Carlos Brathwaite for the final few games.
Lifeless Middle Order
What a wreck! Pathetic! Pitiful! Sad! You can add many more sad adjectives and that defines the middle order of the 2016 champions. Since their inception in 2013, SRH were a great defensive team, boast the best top order batsmen but an extremely weak middle order.
SRH tried to improve that during the 2018 auction by literally grabbing the middle order off the Kolkata Knight Riders. They bought Shakib-Al-Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, and Manish Pandey, the latter who was bought for 11 crores investment. The returns weren’t fruitful. Except for Shakib, both Yusuf and Manish Pandey have flopped. Yusuf Pathan had one game-winning knock and Manish Pandey was the biggest dud of all the 11+ crore batch. He was benched for the most important game of the season, the qualifier 2 against his former team the Kolkata Knight Riders. His replacement Deepak Hooda was a big disappointment as well.
Hooda was retained for a whopping 4+ crores despite having underwhelming past two seasons with the team. This was supposed to be his breakout campaign. Since the injury to Billy Stanlake, he did not have the place in the team with Sandeep Sharma taking his spot in the squad. But when he had the opportunity he couldn’t cash in. With a third disappointing under his belt, one must wonder if this is it for the Rajasthan all-rounder with SRH.
Carlos Brathwaite played some cameos, in the end, replacing Alex Hales. Mohammed Nabi played a game but never really had a place in the XI. SRH have good depth in overseas middle order batsmen but unfortunately, they can play only 4. They need to add more depth in Indian middle order batsmen.
SRH are the best bowling team seen in the eleven seasons of IPL. After losing two games in a row against Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings, SRH came back and to defend four back to back under par totals. Three of those came without their best bowlers in Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Billy Stanlake due to injuries. While Stanlake’s season ended due to a thumb injury, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar did come back but was not in his best forms.
Sidharth Kaul had a breakout season. In the absence of Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Billy Stanlake, he took the responsibility of lead bowler and excelled in the string of wins helping SRH to defend all those low totals. Sandeep Sharma played a crucial role as the third pacer replacing Billy Stanlake. Basil Thampi played a couple of innings but he has a forgettable season with his season-ending by giving away 70 runs in 4 overs against Royal Challengers Banglore, the highest in a single innings by any bowler.
Rashid Khan, the best T20I bowler had an amazing season for any bowler. He single-handedly won games for the Sunrisers by producing some amazing googlies at the right moment and stunning some of the best batsmen bowled. Shakib-Al-Hasan has been the most underrated players in the team. His name got lost in the string of star players in the team. He bowled some tight spells and got some crucial wickets on the top to help team win some games.
But, with all the early success defending small targets; injuries and fatigue caught up in the backend of the season. They lost 5 out of their last 6 games, 2 in playoffs. Even after posting a respectable 179 as a target in the final, the bowlers who started off very well couldn’t restrict Shane Watson and CSK in the chase and lost the game with almost two overs to spare.
Most Valuable Player
I had Kane Williamson as my team MVP at the mid-season review. He still is very well could be the best player thanks to his Orange Cap winning batting and brilliant captaincy under immense pressure, but Rashid Khan’s performance against KKR in qualifier 1 just makes this an easy choice.
With the best individual performance by any player in IPL 2018 in all facets of the game, Rashid Khan single-handedly won the game for SRH against KKR and made sure they have one more shot to beat their kryptonite CSK in the IPL 2018 finale. Rashid Khan, the best T20I bowler in the world, showed various new sides of him in this game. He scored a quickfire 34 off just 10 balls. All his shots are clinical, even reminded people of the now retired 360-degree specialist, South African great AB Devillers. Then with the ball he did his usual by picking up three important wickets. The best of the lot was that of Andre Russell. Kudos to the SRH skipper Kane Williamson as well on the fieldset.
He also made his presence felt on the field with two catches and a crucial run out to seal the deal for SRH to be in their second finals in three years.
Early 2019 prediction
Expectations are going to be big for SRH in 2019. With David Warner mostly coming back into the squad, Alex Hales could be cut. It is hard to imagine Warner retaining the captaincy duties after the way Kane Williamson remarkably led the team to the finals this year. But, with Warner, Dhawan and Kane round up the top 3, which would be one of the most dangerous top 3 ever to be fielded in IPL.
The bowling should be same, with the coaching staff hopeful to have a fit and in-form Bhuvaneshwar Kumar. Rashid Khan who will be only 20 years old next year should continue his amazing form. Shakib and Nabi should be back in the squad too along with Sidharth Kaul and Sandeep Sharma.
The middle order needs the most of the work. With Shakib mostly coming back, Yusuf Pathan should be back in the squad who played some decent cameos to win the games. The same cannot be said about Manish Pandey. He is bought for a whopping 11 crores. SRH did not get the returns on the investment. They would like to cut the bait unless Manish Pandey retains his old form before the start of the season next year. Saha should be back with wicketkeeping duties with Goswami backing him up. Hooda could also be gone with three underwhelming seasons with the teams, its time for the coach and the team to move on from him.
SRH will most likely retain the same team and hope to win it all next season. If they field the same team and with Warner coming back and a fresh start they could very well end up on the top of points table again.