A few days have passed since the IPL Auction was held in Kolkata on 19th December and a lot of teams spent huge sums of money to bolster their squads. Amidst the crazy bidding, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) had a relatively quiet auction with the 2016 IPL Champions focusing more on picking up young Indian talent.
With SRH picking up the likes of Virat Singh, Mitchell Marsh and Priyam Garg among their seven new recruits, a considerable effort was made to solve their middle-order woes. Apart from the above mentioned trio, West Indian Fabian Allen along with Bavanaka Sandeep, Abdul Samad and Sanjay Yadav rounded off SRH’s seven new faces for the next season.
Keeping all these players in mind, let us have a look at SRH’s predicted playing XI.
SRH’s Predicted Playing XI
David Warner, Jonny Bairstow (WK), Kane Williamson (C), Manish Pandey, Virat Singh, Vijay Shankar, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shahbaz Nadeem, Khaleel Ahmed, Siddarth Kaul/ Thangarasu Natarajan.
SRH’s talisman and the best player in the IPL in the last few seasons, Warner has notched up more than 600 runs in each of his past three seasons and he looks set to continue in the same vein next year. In IPL 2019, Warner scored 692 runs to win the Orange Cap while his association with Jonny Bairstow at the top gave amazing starts for SRH.
The other half of the dangerous opening combo, Jonny Bairstow made sure that he made a solid impression in his debut IPL season. Bairstow was only available for 10 games due to international commitments but that was itself enough for him to score 445 runs. Bairstow and Warner formed a very dangerous combination, which led to four 100-run opening partnerships. With Bairstow also being more than a decent player of spin bowling, next season might be even better for the Yorkshireman.
After missing the first few matches, Williamson returned to lead the side but he endured a pretty disappointing season with the bat while SRH also only managed to scrape through the the play-offs before losing a thriller against Delhi Capitals in the Eliminator.
If Williamson doesn’t fire early on and SRH also endure poor results, the team management might very well look for a new captain in order to provide a better balance for the playing XI.
With the likes of Yusuf Pathan and Deepak Hooda not being part of the SRH set-up anymore, there will be added pressure on the experienced Manish Pandey to fire. Pandey has always shown glimpses of his talent in the IPL, like his hundred against Deccan Chargers in the second season of the IPL or the crucial 94 against KXIP in the IPL final for KKR in 2014 but the Karnataka batsman has never managed to be consistent.
In fact, his iffy form at the start of the previous IPL season was also a reason for SRH’s middle order problems in 2019. It was only in the second half of the tournament that Pandey came into his own with superb fifties against CSK, RR and MI. With him guaranteed a spot in the playing XI, SRH would be hoping that Pandey can show some consistency next year.
It is a tight call to choose between two superb young middle-order players in Virat Singh and Priyam Garg but we are going with the former as SRH would probably like a southpaw amidst an array of right-handed batsmen.
Although he is only 22 years old, Virat Singh has been around the domestic scene for a while but it has been the current season of domestic cricket that really threw the Jharkhand batsmen into IPL limelight. Virat managed to make it count during both the Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy by scoring 335 runs and 343 runs respectively. With the youngster having the capability of taking the spinners to the cleaners, Virat might just the player SRH would want at No. 5
At No. 6, batting all-rounder Vijay Shankar gives the much-needed depth for Sunrisers Hyderabad as he also provides 2-3 bonus overs with his medium-pace bowling. Like most of the other SRH middle-order batsmen, Shankar also had a poor season by averaging just 20.33 with the bat. But with a lack of experienced Indian batters at their disposal, SRH are set to continue with Vijay Shankar.
All said and done, with Vijay Shankar showing signs of good form for Tamil Nadu in domestic cricket, SRH would be hoping that he can translate those performances at the IPL level.
Sunrisers Hyderabad’s No.1 spinner, Rashid Khan would be needed to put his average 2019 IPL showing so that he could become a wicket-taking threat once again. After two good seasons in a row, last season saw Rashid Khan either being played out or attacked by opposition batsmen.
Even though qualitatively Rashid wasn’t at his best, IPL 2019 saw the Afghan spinner still end up with 17 scalps from 15 matches. This just shows how important he is to Sunrisers’ hopes in the upcoming season.
Appointed stand-in captain for a few games last season in Kane Williamson’s absence, the responsibility given to Bhuvneshwar Kumar only showed how SRH values him. Such confidence hasn’t come out of nowhere as Bhuvneshwar Kumar is the team’s leading wicket-taker till now with 109 wickets in 86 matches.
Bhuvneshwar will have to be at his very best as SRH’s bowling attack has the tendency to be expensive in the absence of a quality overseas pacer. However, Bhuvneshwar has struggled with injuries of late and that would be a massive cause of worry for SRH. The team management would hope that ‘Bhuvi’ would be at his best shape when the IPL season arrives.
Another Jharkhand player but one who has been around the scene for quite a while, left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem could play as the second spinner in this SRH team. Even though he couldn’t do much in his three games last season, SRH could have Nadeem as one of the powerplay bowlers.
The 30-year-old is accustomed to that role and he could easily get through two or three cheap overs to build the pressure on opposition batsmen. One could even say that Nadeem has been pretty unlucky to have not played more matches and it would only help SRH if the veteran gets more games next year.
Although there are a quite a few Indian pace-bowling options at SRH’S disposal, Khaleel Ahmed could be a nailed on starter due to his superlative performances in the previous season. Although he couldn’t get chances early on, Khaleel made a fantastic impression by picking up 19 wickets in just 9 matches in 2019. This also made him SRH’s leading wicket-taker. The team would the Rajasthan pacer to bowl with the same kind of intensity next year.
Siddarth Kaul/ Thangarasu Natarajan
The last spot in the playing XI could either go to the experienced Siddarth Kaul or the lesser known Thangarasu Natarajan. Last season Kaul struggled to pick wickets while being expensive at the same time. On the other hand, Natarajan didn’t get a single opportunity as Khaleel Ahmed took his chance with both hands while the third seamet’s spot was being rotated between Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul and Basil Thampi due to average performances.
With Natarajan doing exceedingly well in the Tamil Nadu Premier League and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, SRH might be left confronting a good headache. Most importantly, Natarajan provides a very good death bowling option to complement Bhuvneshwar Kumar as end-overs bowling has been a major problem for the team.
Overall, SRH have a pretty decent starting line-up even though there are still a few question marks over the middle order and pace-bowling strength. As mentioned earlier, SRH management might have to quickly decide about how the three foreigners at the top is possibly leaving the team with a slightly unbalanced side. If Williamson misses out, it would give an opportunity to either Mitchell Marsh or Billy Stanlake,SRH which will solve one out of SRH’s two main problems.