SRH in IPL 2019: Over-dependence on the openers?
As a franchise, the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) are renowned for their smart buys at the auction, leading to the formation of a well-balanced side. This season, although SRH lost Shikhar Dhawan in a trade to Delhi Capitals, they picked up Jonny Bairstow in the auction. He's had an excellent start to his IPL career, opening alongside the consistent David Warner.
In return for the trading of Dhawan, SRH received the in-form Vijay Shankar, the explosive youngster Abhishek Sharma and left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem. At the start of the season, it seemed as though SRH were the most balanced side going into the tournament.
However, it is time to question the team composition after consecutive losses, a humbling 40-run defeat to Mumbai Indians (MI) while chasing a meagre total of 136 at their fortress and a nail-biting finish against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) at Mohali.
A part of the blame in both the games can be attributed to the struggling middle-order of the team, with SRH being the only team with no batsmen in the middle or lower order scoring a half-century this IPL. Although the openers have had a flying start to the campaign, it is necessary that the middle-order steps up when the openers fail to fire, and there is an early wicket. No middle-order player has taken such a responsibility yet.
Vijay Shankar, who came into the tournament at the back of impressive performances for the Indian team, started the tournament brilliantly, finishing innings set up by the openers. However, he has failed to put up a decent score coming in after an early wicket. The talented batting all-rounder is contesting for the No.4 slot in the Indian cricket team for this World Cup, hence it is extremely important for the Tamil Nadu captain to take responsibility in the middle-order and put up some big scores.
Manish Pandey led Karnataka to the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy just before the start of IPL. However, he has failed to perform for the team and justify the price tag of Rs 11 crores paid for him in the auction last year. Deepak Hooda was the highest scorer for the team in the humiliating loss to MI and finished the innings off in style against KXIP. His form is a positive and SRH would count on him to add quick runs in the death overs. Yusuf Pathan has been extremely poor, and is also a liability in the field.
SRH have won 3 games and lost 3 games so far, and sit at fourth in the points table. The team has a long break of 5 days before playing 3 games at the home ground, their fortress in a span of a week. This break is welcome for the team, the players would have time to put the losses behind them and prepare for the challenges lying ahead.
However, at this juncture, coach Tom Moody would have to reconsider the balance and composition of the team. Although he would be tempted to bring in Kane Williamson to add stability in their middle-order, that would mean benching Mohammad Nabi, who has been extremely valuable to the bowling unit, and has the ability to add quick runs to finish the innings off.
Further, his skill set would suit the pitch in Hyderabad , hence, dropping him cannot be an option. The team could look to provide opportunities to Indian youngsters on the bench in place of Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan.
Ricky Bhui had a decent stint with Andhra in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019, averaging 59 at a strike rate of 207. Abhishek Sharma has proven his big-hitting ability during his stint with the Delhi Daredevils last season. W. Saha and S. Goswami have been around in the circuit for long enough and could be considered as replacements.
The Orange Army needs to evaluate its options and try finding the right set of players to fit the middle order, to support the explosive opening pair. It is important to formulate a stable middle order that have enough runs amongst them, before the departure of Jonny Bairstow and David Warner due to World Cup obligations.
SRH have been one of the most consistent sides in the IPL over the last few years, and require their Indian batsmen to step up and find definite form if the team wishes to continue the same.
The over-dependence on the openers could cost Sunrisers this IPL, and it could be a tricky contest ahead of the Orange Army to make to the playoffs and beyond.
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