Mighty Top Order & Sturdy Bowling Key to SRH’s Success Once Again
Will this be the season for SRH?
As Sunrisers Hyderabad head into the 2021 season of the Indian Premier League, the performance of their mighty top-order and sturdy bowling unit will be crucial to their chances of success once again.
The David Warner-led side made it to the playoffs for the fourth consecutive time last season, since they won their maiden title in 2016, but they haven't been able to go beyond that stage in these four years to have another shot at title glory.
In the off season, SRH didn't make that many changes to their squad. While they released the likes of Sanjay Yadav, B Sandeep, Billy Stanlake, Fabian Allen, and Yarra Prithviraj ahead of the auction, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Kedar Jadhav and Jagadeesha Suchith are the new names they have added to their roster for IPL 2021.
Moreover, they have also added Jason Roy to their roster recently after Mitchell Marsh decided to pull out of the tournament with less than 10 days to go.
Sunrisers Hyderabad IPL 2021 Squad
David Warner (c), Abhishek Sharma, Basil Thampi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jonny Bairstow, Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Sandeep Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem, Shreevats Goswami, Siddarth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed, T Natarajan, Vijay Shankar, Wriddhiman Saha, Abdul Samad, Jason Roy, Jason Holder, Priyam Garg, Virat Singh, Jagadeesha Sucith, Kedar Jadhav, Mujeeb Ur Rahman
Which Four Overseas Players Likely in the Playing XI?
Looking at the resources available to the Sunrisers, the composition of their playing XI will mainly depend on which set of four overseas players they opt for.
Skipper David Warner and spinner Rashid Khan are two automatic overseas picks as they are two of the world's best T20 players right now. Jonny Bairstow, Jason Holder, Kane Williamson and Mohammad Nabi are the likely contenders for the other two overseas slots.
It will be difficult to overlook Holder for one of these slots considering how well he performed last year. He picked up wickets regularly and scored valuable runs batting in the lower middle-order as well.
However, the Sunrisers are going to play nine out of their 14 league matches this time on the slow and sluggish tracks of Chennai and Delhi.
So, Nabi being a spinner, becomes a better asset than Holder in such conditions. In addition to that, he can be an equally useful lower middle-order batsman like Holder.
Now determining the right player for the final overseas slot is the tricky part as it will be a direct tussle between Williamson and Bairstow.
Jonny Bairstow or Kane Williamson?
Williamson played a majority of his innings at No 4 last season as his presence at that position provided some much-needed experience to the middle-order, which consisted of young and inexperienced Indian batsmen like Priyam Garg and Abdul Samad.
Even though the youngsters have one season of experience under their belt now, they still can't match the assurance that Williamson would provide to their middle-order. It might not be an ideal position for the Kiwi batsman as he is mainly a top-order player but he played the role pretty well last year.
Williamson amassed 288 runs batting at No 4 or below, at an average of 48 and strike-rate of 132.11. That was a valuable and crucial contribution considering how inexperienced the middle-order was.
As far as Bairstow is considered, he was seen struggling quite a bit towards the second half of IPL 2020 as the tracks had started slowing down by then.
Out of the 345 runs he amassed last season, 241 runs came in his first six innings at an average of 40.16 and strike-rate of 138.50. This included three scores of fifty or more as well. However, Bairstow amassed just 104 runs in his next five innings at a poor average and strike-rate of 20.8 and 104.12 respectively. That sums up how his returns started diminishing once the tracks started slowing down.
So his struggles on slow tracks might work against him this season as SRH will play nine of their 14 games on such decks. Moreover, Wriddhiman Saha was fabulous in the three innings he played at the top of the order last season. He notched up two fifties and scored at a much swifter rate than Bairstow as well. Hence, he is another option they can consider as Warner's partner at the top and that makes way for Williamson to slot into the middle-order.
Now, let’s look at their major strengths and weaknesses.
SRH have had Warner, one of the best top-order T20 batsmen in their ranks, for a number of years now. And they strengthened it further when they acquired Bairstow in 2019. Saha's exploits from last season makes their top-order look even more intimidating whereas Roy's addition has increased its depth even further.
As far as powerplay batting is considered, Warner and co. had the best batting average and strike-rate among all teams last season.
SRH's No 3 batsman Manish Pandey played a big role in contributing to these powerplay numbers along with the likes of Warner, Bairstow, and Saha. Pandey scored 181 runs in the powerplay last year at a meteoric average of 90.50 and a strike-rate of 156.03.
Even if we consider the overall performance of the top three batsmen of all teams since IPL 2018, none of them have scored more than SRH's tally of 4,762 runs. As far as batting average is considered, only Punjab's top three (39.09) have done better than the Sunrisers (37.50). Moreover, SRH's top three strike-rate of 137.59 is the third best among all teams as well. So it sums up how consistent their top-order has been over the years.
Powerplay and Death Overs Bowling
The injury to Bhuvneshwar Kumar was a major setback for the Sunrisers last season. The ace pacer was sidelined after playing only four matches in the season but their bowling unit still managed to put up a great new-ball show and they were quite effective with their death bowling as well.
Only Mumbai Indians (6.99) and Chennai Super Kings (7.48) had maintained a better powerplay economy rate than the Sunrisers (7.49) in IPL 2020, whereas their bowling strike-rate of 22.15 was only bettered by Mumbai Indians (18.58) once again.
As far as their death bowling goes, they did fairly well considering that they missed their main death bowling weapon in Bhuvneshwar. They registered a season death bowling economy rate of 10.72 and if you look at their over-by-over death bowling economy below, you can see that it was mainly their performance in the last over they struggled with. Otherwise they were pretty good in the 17th, 18th and 19th overs.
Moreover, they picked up a wicket at an interval of every 12 deliveries approximately. So these were pretty good returns considering the absence of the leader of their bowling attack.
However, things will improve a lot if Bhuvneshwar manages to stay injury-free this season. He was seen in good rhythm in the white-ball series against England that concluded recently and he will be looking to carry that form forward. His economy rate of 5.90 is the third best among bowlers who have bowled at least 20 overs inside the powerplay since IPL 2017.
As a death bowler, he has an economy rate of 9.49 and a strike-rate of 11.93 to his name during the same time-frame. Along with T Natarajan, who picked up 10 wickets at a strike-rate of 13.10 in the death overs (17-20) last season, Bhuvneshwar can form one of the best death bowling pairs in the league.
SRH were extremely good in terms of their powerplay batting in IPL 2020 but they were equally bad when it came to scoring in the death overs. They recorded the worst death overs numbers among all teams last season and that was mainly due to the inexperience and lack of big-hitters in their lower middle-order.
The likes of Samad, Garg, and Abhishek Sharma came up with occasional sparks of brilliance from time to time but they lacked the skills and experience to repeat their good performances on a consistent basis. Things haven't changed much as the Sunrisers head into the 2021 season, though. Samad and Abhishek will occupy two slots of their lower middle-order most probably.
However, the young guns are one season wiser now and hence, they will be looking to come up with a much better performance this time. The role of Holder and Nabi, whoever takes up that overseas all-rounder slot among them, will be crucial in giving SRH that death overs impetus.
The absence of a quality second spinner
When it comes to the spin bowling department, SRH are overdependent on Rashid Khan. The Afghan spinner has been a match-winner for the franchise ever since his first season with them in 2017 and he continued his exploits last year as he accounted for 20 wickets at an excellent average of 17.20 once again.
However, it has been a complete one-man show in terms of spin bowling as they don't have any other spinner who can match or can even come close to Rashid's quality. If we look at their spinners' bowling numbers from last season, only Shahbaz Nadeem had decent numbers to show apart from Rashid. But his numbers are decent at best and picking him in the XI would mean compromising on batting depth.
SRH have had Nabi with them for several seasons now but they have been hesitant to use him as a first-team option. His pairing with Rashid in the middle-overs can give the team good returns if they decide to give Nabi a consistent run of games this season.
Other than Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman is also an option. They acquired him in the auctions this year but his IPL numbers in recent years haven't been good, despite enjoying success at the international level and in other T20 leagues as well. Moreover, picking him in the XI would mean compromising on batting depth once again and that's why he won't be an ideal choice as a first-team material either.
So, Nabi and Rashid along with Abhishek as a part-time option would be judicious use of their spin bowling resources.
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