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.
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:
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:
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.