A series of articles where fans from each team were asked a set of questions ahead of the start of the season. The team in focus here is Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Abhinav presents his point of view about his favorite team.
- Sunrisers Hyderabad; what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear about them?
Whenever I hear the name of Sunrisers Hyderabad, I always think of them being a very well-run organization of good people, who have a clear idea of how this team has to be run. Upon hearing the name of this side, I get reminded of the adage that while batsmen win you games, bowlers win you tournaments & SRH are the clearest examples of this adage coming true.
- SRH have been one of the most consistent sides in IPL since 2015, and are also one of the contenders for playoffs this season. How do you rate the squad for the upcoming season? Is the middle order a cause of concern?
To be honest, there is a lot of promise in this squad to have a tilt at the title. But issues definitely are there and yes, the middle order is certainly a cause of concern. Hopefully, the acquisitions of highly-rated youngsters like Priyam Garg, Virat Singh & Abdul Samad would be able to redress that worry & be able to fill that void that existed in last year’s team.
- The skipper who won SRH the title in 2016 is back as captain. What do you feel will change with change in leadership?
David Warner being back as a skipper was almost a given, considering that Kane Williamson was hardly ever able to play last season, thus limiting his ability to influence the play on the field as a captain. David Warner was almost the de-facto skipper of the team last season whenever Kane Williamson couldn’t take the field despite Bhuvneshwar Kumar being the captain officially on those occasions. Warner’s return as a skipper will only be a benefit for SRH as he seems almost like a completely different person than the one usually seen in the Australian colors. He seems extremely calm, affable & strategic in the SRH colors as a captain & seems to relish the lightness it brings in his demeanor. The return of Warner as captain is only a great thing for SRH.
- The consistency since 2016; qualifying for playoffs every single season, what do you think has been the major reason behind it?
They’ve been a supremely consistent side since 2016, where they’ve qualified for the playoffs every season and one of the biggest reasons for this consistency has been of how this side has identified the fact that having a good quality bowling attack is critical to go the distance in a tournament like the IPL and they’ve made a serious investment on that front, by buying & backing Bhuvneshwar Kumar & the Afghan fox Rashid Khan as their bowling leaders & having bowlers with great potential upsides surrounding them such as Sidharth Kaul, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Basil Thampi in the current setup & Barinder Sran in their title-winning season in 2016 alongside Ashish Nehra. Whenever a team is able to get quality in their bowling lineup & a captain and the management back them properly, there is always success waiting for all those sides. Also, the sheer consistency of David Warner over the years also isn’t a bad thing either for SRH.
- SRH have always been praised for their smartness at the auction table. How crucial a role has the think-tank including Laxman, Murali and Moody played in it?
It is a point worth noting that half the journey to win the IPL title is traversed in navigating & being a success on the auction table, with the other half coming from the performances of the key protagonists on the field of play. In this regard, SRH’s enduring smartness at the auction table is a marker of how well-oiled their franchise is & the manner in which it is run. The earlier trio of Tom Moody-VVS Laxman-Muthiah Muralitharan alongside their former head of cricket operations and scouting Srinath Bhashyam (now Head of Cricket Operations at Delhi Capitals) played the auction game with a lot of smartness and they had picked out a lot of unknown quantities in the wider cricketing world & were rewarded with major performances from them, with the likes of Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Barinder Sran, Ben Cutting, Siddharth Kaul all coming good for them at various points in various campaigns. Even now, despite Trevor Bayliss having taken over from Tom Moody as the head coach of the team, SRH still retain that smartness on the auction table, with the snip of West Indian all-rounder Fabian Allen in this auction being one of the smartest purchases by any side.
- SRH are a team who have 3 overseas slots almost fixed – Warner, Rashid and Bairstow. Who do you think should be the fourth overseas guy in the XI?
For that fourth overseas player spot in the SRH lineup, I’d toss-up between “El Presidente (The President)” Mohammad Nabi and the West Indian all-rounder Fabian Allen, depending on the team they are confronted with. For a team which would be packed with a lot of left-handed batsmen, Mohammad Nabi would be the better option to play alongside Warner, Bairstow & Rashid, while for a batting order which would have a majority of right-handed batsmen, playing someone like Fabian Allen wouldn’t go amiss, as he bowls some decent quality left-arm spin. But Allen provides a greater value on the field & alongside Warner & Manish Pandey, would rank as the best fielders in this side.
- Which team or teams do you think poses the biggest threat to SRH this season and why?
The team that would probably be the biggest threat to SRH would be Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings & Kolkata Knight Riders. Chennai Super Kings have always been a bogey team for SRH & they’ve always come unstuck against them. Mumbai Indians possess the best pace attack & death bowler around & that prowess might come to haunt the SRH batting towards the latter half of their innings. Against KKR, KKR have one of the most destructive middle orders amongst all the sides in Eoin Morgan-Dinesh Karthik & Andre Russell and the SRH bowling has been taken apart by them in the previous season in the death overs and if they fail to learn their lessons from last year, an encore cannot be ruled out. So CSK, MI & KKR would pose the greatest challenge for this SRH team.
- The Orange Army has donned the Orange Cap 4 times in the last 5 seasons. Do you see that trend continuing?
The fact that a Sunrisers Hyderabad batsman has won the Orange Cap in 4 of the last 5 seasons with newly-reinstated captain David Warner winning it 3 times in 2015, 2017 and 2019, with Kane Williamson winning it in 2018, while speaks volumes of how brilliant they’ve been for SRH in marshaling their side as the beacon for the batting order, is also a sign that they can get too over-reliant on one batsman to constantly take them out of the muddle. While I’d love to see an SRH batsman win the Orange Cap yet again, it will gladden me as a fan even more if their other senior batsmen like Manish Pandey or Vijay Shankar too decide to step up and ensure that the Warner-Jonny Bairstow combination doesn’t have all to do once again.
- Pitches in UAE are expected to help spinners and bowlers who can take the pace off, something which is tailor-made for a side like SRH. Do you think SRH start with a huge advantage due to the IPL happening in UAE?
SRH do come into this IPL with this advantage that with the pitches in the UAE expected to assist spinners and also those bowlers who have the ability to take the pace off the ball. With the likes of Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Fabian Allen, Shahbaz Nadeem as the frontline spinners in this squad with Abhishek Sharma & Abdul Samad to give them another spin-bowling option, they also have the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul & Khaleel Ahmed, all of whom like to take the pace off the ball & bowl a lot of variation deliveries, especially the knuckleball, which could give them a slight edge over the other sides.
- What has been your most favourite SRH moment/moments over the years?
Despite having been in the IPL only since 2013, SRH have given me quite a few good memories, none more so than the 2016 Final against RCB, where it was a thrilling sight to watch an unlikely hero emerge for them in the form of Ben Cutting, who waded into Shane Watson like a Bull who loses his rag on seeing anything remotely red in a Spanish bullfight, and plundered a match-winning 39 of just 15 deliveries & then make a telling impact with the ball by snaring out the powerhouse Chris Gayle and then KL Rahul later on. Another memory that I recollect of SRH is their defense of a total of 119 against the Mumbai Indians in the 2018 season at the Wankhede Stadium, where a stunning bowling effort from them saw Mumbai just fold for a shocking 87 all-out, giving SRH a victory in a game where they had been ruled out. And yes, it’s impossible to not have a smile on seeing the dynamite duo of Warner-Bairstow cracking stereo centuries against RCB last season at Hyderabad & totally rewriting the playbook of T20 opening batsmanship in the process.
- Who has been the most valuable player for SRH according to you till date? And who will be their most valuable guy this season?
It’s a no-brainer selection for SRH’s most valuable player till date. David Warner has been a franchise changer for this side, since his arrival in 2014. His taking up of the leadership of the franchise also marked a massive change in his own personality, as he mellowed down & suddenly became a presence of calm in the midst of turbulence & became a leader of a young team looking to break out of their funk. Their title win in 2016 was majorly due to Warner setting a ridiculously high standard with the bat & constantly winning them games from positions where they were not supposed to win. As for the upcoming season, their most valuable player could probably be Manish Pandey, for the simple reason that he needs to have a proper breakout season for Hyderabad in order to further burnish his credentials in the Indian T20 setup, but also to make him another pillar that SRH could bank upon without having to exclusively bank upon Warner & Bairstow to score all the runs for them.
- Where do you see SRH finishing this season? Can David Warner lead them to another title?
SRH would certainly be amongst the favorites this season, for the simple reason that they seem to have all the resources in their armory to go the distance. I would say that they would be able to make it to the playoffs with a relative degree of comfort, so a 3rd place finish is not out of the cards yet. For a title tilt, a few things will have to fall in place, with the likes of Manish Pandey & Vijay Shankar needing to step up with the bat and be active contributors with the bat alongside Warner & Bairstow, while their Indian pace bowling lineup needing to up their game after having an iffy 2019 season, so as to ensure that Rashid Khan doesn’t have it all to do for SRH. But if all these factors fall into position for this team, it’s not out of the question to think of David Warner probably taking them to another title.