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Defending the Crown: A Sunrisers Hyderabad Post-Auction & Pre-Season Review

On April 5th 2017, IPL will begin its 10th edition, meaning that it’s time to begin talking about how the teams line up. This article, as well as the 7 following it, will discuss auction performances, as well as key players and lineups for each team.

SRH were largely dependent on David Warner for their runs. Image credits: espncricinfo.com

The Sunrisers Hyderabad put up a dominating show to register their maiden IPL victory. Building on the star performances of the accurate Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the devastating David Warner and, of course, the peerless Mustafizur Rahman, SRH managed to end a streak of mediocre performances to finally seize the cup.

Approaching 2017, however, it is impossible to overlook certain issues that appeared in their lineup during the 2016 campaign. First and foremost was the middle order — While Warner and Shikhar Dhawan both had seasons to remember, none of the other SRH batsmen managed to put together substantial runs. Yuvraj Singh had his moments, but the rest of SRH’s middle order could neither score consistently nor at a quick rate. The two main culprits of this were Deepak Hooda (144 runs from 17 games; SR 119.00 & Avg 10.28) and Naman Ojha (136 runs from 17 games; SR 98.55 & Avg 13.60). Even overseas recruits Eoin Morgan (123 from 7 games @ 117.14) and Kane Williamson (124 from 6 games @ 101.63) flattered to deceive. This meant that for the most part, SRH were largely dependent on their openers for the bulk of their runs, and were easily bogged down if their openers (particularly Warner) failed.

Hence, they entered the 2017 Auction with the main goal of picking up someone who could solidify that middle order. They exited the auction with:

SRH Auction Results - Property of IPLgeek.com.

 

As always, SRH exited with a pretty decent set of players for a relatively small sum of money. They have been good auction “players” since their first auction in 2013, and have continued that trend here. Their most expensive player was the young 19-year old Afghani leg spinner Rashid Khan.

Rashid and Mohammed Nabi – the first Afghani players to be offered IPL contracts – were obviously the two talking points on SRH’s purchase list, but on the whole it was quite interesting to see SRH did not actually spend a whole lot on middle-order batsmen, as simple logic would suggest to be their logical course of action. For the most part, they were looking for all-rounders and bowlers. Despite the fact that Naman Ojha will need to step up his game given that Ekalavya Dwivedi will be breathing down his neck, this indicates that on the whole, they are willing to trust a largely similar middle order to last year to make it count this time around, but are looking to solidify their bowling options, and bring in the extra all-rounder wherever possible. This is also something that was indicated by the retainment of Kane Williamson ahead of the auction, despite a poor season.

A possible reason for this style of purchasing could be that they want to maintain the two overseas all-rounder dynamic that was present in their victorious final squad, but at the same time provide more stable all-round options than Moises Henriques and Ben Cutting. Henriques was an integral cog to SRH’s bowling unit, but floundered with the bat. Cutting offered some decent all-round shows in the 4 games he played – including a scintillating all-round show in the Final – but his low-order smashing does not quite fit within the niche of solidity that SRH need to help anchor their middle order. A more solid all-rounder like Ben Stokes (for whom they were willing to spend up to ₹14 crore), therefore, could have helped remedy that while still maintaining that two-allrounder dynamic. Mohammed Nabi will play a critical role here, as he can not only serve as a powerful batsman, but also be a frontline spinner, something that SRH critically lacked last season.

Another main point they might have wished to address would be Mustafizur Rahman’s situation. Although it feels strange to doubt the form of a player who was next to invincible just last season, SRH did the right thing by bringing in backups for him. As KXIP learned the hard way in 2015 with Glenn Maxwell, not having backups for even your best players can result in disaster. This also makes sense given that Mustafizur played almost no cricket between the 2016 Final and December of that year, due to injury. His return to cricket has not quite been marked by extraordinary success, and hence SRH would have every reason to be cautious about his form come April. On paper Chris Jordan is a play-for-play replacement — he is a death over specialist, often saved for the last few overs of the innings, very similar to the way Warner used Mustafizur during the 2016 season. However, this is also where Rashid Khan could make his break into the side. While SRH rode largely on a solid fast-bowling squadron in 2016, Rashid’s recent performances – including a 5 wicket haul in 10 balls – for Afghanistan make him very hard to ignore.

All in all, SRH had little to fix ahead of the 2017 season, and even if they didn’t address every concern, they opened up some very interesting avenues, and have put together a very solid team for 2017. Now, check out my dynamic for their playing XI:

SRH Playing Dynamic - Image Property of IPLgeek.com

Note: This dynamic represents possible scenarios of my own deduction, and have no direct affiliation with the actual plans of the SRH team management.

Mohammed Nabi will play one of the largest roles for SRH this season; doubling up as a frontline spinner and a middle-order power hitter, Nabi will allow SRH to stick to their very successful fast-bowling lineup from 2016 while still being able to take advantage of any spin on offer. However, that is not to neglect the presence of Pravin Tambe, who enters the side as a full-time spinner, something SRH lacked last year. While SRH have had the most success with their pace attack, Tambe’s presence allows them to have a second frontline spin option with Nabi, and one of higher quality than Bipul Sharma.

Rashid Khan could also play a massive role in SRH’s defense of their title, but his entry into the XI will largely be dependent on whether or not SRH want to play Mustafizur. Given their lack of quality Indian batting, it is unlikely that they will go for two overseas bowlers, which means that it will either be one or the other. Previous IPL stats obviously favor the Fizz, but as mentioned above, he has been sidelined with injury for a long time, and has had very little playing time between the 2016 IPL and now. Rashid, on the other hand, has been making headlines with his star shows against Ireland. Hence, it will be a very interesting contest to see which of the two makes it into the final XI.

The use of Kane Williamson will also be something to look out for. Henriques had a poor run with the bat in 2016, and the number three spot was an itch on their nose for the whole of the season. Although Williamson did little to turn heads himself, the fact that SRH have chosen to retain him demonstrates that they have faith in him, faith that his English colleague Eoin Morgan did not receive. If Williamson fires, he could solve pretty much all of SRH’s middle order woes in a jiffy, while also offering the option of playing as an opener with David Warner, should Shikhar Dhawan’s form tail.

Mohammed Siraj will also be expected to make ripples for SRH this season. While Barinder Sran holds the advantage of being a capped bowler, he has had little playing time since spearheading India’s side that toured Zimbabwe in June of last year. While they have little reason to tinker with their winning combination, Siraj could provide an alternative to Sran’s left-arm pace (which SRH already have an abundance of in Mustafizur and Ashish Nehra), which would bring a tad more variety to David Warner’s bowling options.

The Sunrisers’ first game will be the tournament opener on April 5th, as they take on fellow finalists Royal Challengers Bangalore at home, in the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.

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World Cup Journal #1: Expect the Unexpected

 

Paul Stirling on his way o leading Ireland to an incredible win. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

Paul Stirling on his way to leading Ireland to an incredible win. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

This 2015 World Cup has been chugging along quite merrily. Of course, we’ve all had our fair share of nail biting, shivering, praying, and (for some), TV smashing, but more than that, the general ambience that the Cricket World Cup is here is very pleasant.

What has made this World Cup stand out to me so much ahead of the 4 World Cups (T20 included) that I’ve followed intensely before this is the equality we’ve had in terms of competition. Barring the white flag encounters of England vs. New Zealand and Pakistan vs. West Indies, we’ve always had some degree of a fight in pretty much every game, even those Mammoth vs. Minnow competitions that we usually like to consider as walkovers. We saw this even in the in the warm-ups, as Scotland were all but successful in their chase of 313 against the West Indies, and Zimbabwe pulled the carpet from under Sri Lanka to register a surprising upset. In the league stage, we saw Scotland make the resurgent and roaring New Zealand side sweat in their chase of a paltry 142, a spirited Afghanistan just failing to pull through after putting Sri Lanka in a precarious situation at 178-6 in 41.2 overs chasing 233, and a belligerent Paul Stirling leading Ireland to a massive victory over the West Indies. In essence, this World Cup hasn’t just been about the Giants steaming through a bunch of minnows to face each other in the playoffs; rather, it’s been about everyone playing their best cricket (at least most of the time), and making us cricket fans expect the unexpected.

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Afghanistan go ‘Wright’ out the door

Luke Wright’s superb 55-ball 99 led England to a massive 116 run-win to gain an assured place in the Super 8s, and to  knock out Afghanistan. After choosing to bowl first, Afghanistan got off to a great start as pacer  Shapoor Zadran bowled a maiden over, in which he knocked over Craig Kieswetter. However, that was one of the very rare moments of success for them as Wright, assisted by Alex Hales, tore through the Afghani attack. Hales fell for 31 of 27, but his task was done. Wright just kept going, and was asisted along the way by Eoin Morgan (27 of 23), and along with a few late cameos from Jos Butler (15 in 7) and Johnny Bairstow (12 of 5) England made it to a massive 196-5. Afghanistan, who had nearly given India an unexpected surprise, were left shell-shocked. And that mood carried into their batting, as they were bowled out for 80, with Gulbodin Naib being their top scorer with his 32-ball 44. He was also the only person to have a strike rate above 100 and to score a double-digit figure. The spinners Greame Swann and Samit Patel bowled brilliantly, with figures of 7-2-28-4 between them. Also, the England attack bowled 3 maidens this game.Luke Wright was Man Of The Match for his fabulous show.  So a sad end to the Afghani tale, but better luck next time! Another thing this match has done is that it assures India’s passage into the Super 8s. So catch you in Sri Lanka vs South Africa, at 3:00 PM Sri Lanka time. Until then, Adios!!

cricket @ iplgeek

Gulbodin Naib’s valiant effort was not enough to get Afghanistan too a win.

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Kohli, Balaji lead India to win

Virat Kohli and Laxmipathy Balaji today helped India pull off their first win in the World Cup T20 for 2012. Kohli, who pulled out yet another fifty, helped India recover from 79-5 and get to a defendable total of 159-5, which proved to be too much for the Afghs to chase down. Balaji, who was not a part of the Indian squad for a very long time, made his mark as he picked up 3-19 in 3.3 0vers. Balaji was well supported by Yuvraj Singh who failed with the bat but took a handy 3-24 in his 4 overs; and R Ashwin (2-20). Together, they bundled out Afghanistan for a paltry 136. Kohli, as always, was impeccable with the bat and kept the runs coming after India’s shaky start, losing Virender Sehwag (8) and Gautam Gambhir (10) early. Kohli found some support in Suresh Raina (38), after Yuvraj Singh (18) fell early. VK brought up his fifty in 38 balls before he as dismissed by Dawlat Zadran. With 160 to chase, the Afghanistan openers, capatin Nawroz Mangal and Mohammad Shahzad  gave a decent foundation, with a 26-run stand in 3.5 overs before Shahzad was removed by Balaji. Then, Mangal made another 26-run stand with Karim Sadiq, before he fell for 22, with scorecard reading 52-2 in 7.1 overs. From there chasing 160 should have been rather easy, with the required rate still below 9. Then Yuvraj induced the wickets of both Sadiq and Asghar Stanikzai, and Ashwin removed Samiullah Shenwari for 1, leaving Afghanistan at 76-5 in 12.1 overs. Then came the real shocker for India. Mohammed Nabi, a relatively unknown player, came in and smashed the ball around, to keep the fire burning. Finally, Ashwin removed him for 31 of 17. After that, it was downhill for the Afghs. Balaji and Irfan Pathan wrapped up things nicely so there were no unexpected runs from the tail, and took the game by 23 runs. Kohli was named Man Of The Match for his effort. So now India, like Sri Lanka, are virtually in the Super 8’s, and have a great shot at the trophy. This is IPLgeek, signing off. Have a great day!   

cricket @ iplgeek

Mohammed Nabi’s valiant effort to make it Afghanistan’s day.

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