One of the key takeaways from Sunrisers Hyderabad’s (SRH) defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in their IPL 2021 opener last week was the make-up of their top 6. The main topics of discussion were, of course, the exclusion of Kane Williamson from the middle-order and Jonny Bairstow being dropped down the order to No.4.
Instead of going in with their immensely successful opening pair of Warner and Bairstow, SRH opted for Wriddhiman Saha as one of the two batters at the top alongside the skipper.
While the reasons for leaving out Williamson and fielding Saha as an opener were explained by SRH head coach Trevor Bayliss, the Bairstow demotion was perhaps an unspoken admission of the team’s longstanding middle-order issue. Thus, SRH looked to spread their best batters in the roster and maximise each passage of their innings. From SRH’s perspective, it made cricketing sense.
Just to show the pink of health he is in as a limited-overs batter, Bairstow scored a measured half-century in what happened to be a lost cause. The England right-hander did make a nice attempt at an alternate job for the team’s sake. Yet, something felt amiss, as one couldn’t help but think whether in bring him down the order, SRH are actually denying Bairstow the chance to make the most impact on their fortunes, which he can do when he opens the batting and sets up the game with Warner.
SRH Take Right Step Forward As Bairstow Rejoins Warner At The Top
David Warner and Jonny Bairstow form inarguably one of the most threatening opening pairs in the history of the IPL. The two players have an excellent range – be it spin and pace – and compliment each other brilliantly. Bairstow has usually been the more aggressive of the two within the powerplay overs, while Warner tries to bat deep into the innings.
To cover for your weakness, you can’t compromise on your strongest suit. Because that gives you the best possible chance of winning. And so, it was a step in the right direction by SRH when for the match against Mumbai Indians (MI) on Saturday (April 17), Bairstow rejoined Warner at the top.
Against MI, with SRH chasing 151 to open their account in the tournament after successive losses, Warner and Bairstow put on 67 runs for the first wicket, with Bairstow contributing a quickfire 43 off 22 balls. Bairstow batted magnificently in trying to maximise the field restriction overs and keep SRH ahead of the asking rate on a Chepauk surface that deteriorates significantly in the latter half of the innings.
Bairstow looked in such good form that it required a freak dismissal for him to be walking back to the Pavillion. The batsman was hit-wicket facing MI’s left-arm spinner Krunal Pandya. Sometime later, Warner, whose innings started with a flourish before slowing down post Bairstow’s departure, was run-out. MI got back in the game, putting the SRH middle-order under pressure, and eventually won it by 13 runs.
Irrespective of the outcome, however, nothing shall deter SRH from retaining Bairstow and Warner at the top and playing to their strengths, which could also mean bringing Williamson back in the middle-order. Given their existing squad – which they shall look to revamp later – and the paucity of Indian batsmen good enough to walk into the XI, it should never be about Bairstow versus Williamson for SRH. They can and should both play together in that otherwise vulnerable batting unit.