IPL 2018 mid-season analysis - Are SunRisers Hyderabad the team to beat this year?

Are SunRisers Hyderabad the team to beat this year?
 

Not many would have thought at the beginning of the season that SunRisers Hyderabad would be leading the tally at the half way mark. Be that as it may, cricket never fails to throw surprises at us.

For many, SRH are the new defending champions, which of course does not stand in the literal sense of the word. The official defending champions are obviously Mumbai Indians but they way Hyderabad have been defending totals this year, it has made them the ‘defending’ champions in the true sense of the word.

SRH have emerged victorious four out of four times while defending subpar totals. One wonders whether anything can actually be called a safe total against them given their gun bowling line up.

In the aftermath of the Sandpaper Gate when David Warner was banned from the IPL season, many considered it as the death knell for SRH’s hopes of clinching this year’s title. There’s no denying the fact that David Warner’s availability was a huge loss for SRH. He was not only their leader but a very consistent and explosive batsman at the top of the order.

Captaincy

However, the franchise remained unflustered with the move. They backed New Zealand Captain Kane Williamson to carry the mantle forward. To be candid, Williamson did not even make the playing XI at the outset but the Hyderabad management expressed their faith in the Kiwi and he has responded in kind.

Williamson has led from the front not only as a Captain but as a batsman as well. He has notched up 410 runs in 10 matches at average of over 50 and a strike rate of a shade over 130. His consistency has been unparalleled as the New Zealander has already piled up 5 half centuries – the most by any batsman in IPL 2018.

Batting

The SRH batting is the weaker of the two departments. They already had limited names to flaunt on paper but the even ones they had, have failed to live up to the expectations. In the absence of David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan took responsibility for the first few matches. But ever since he made a comeback after his elbow injury, he has struggled for runs.

Notwithstanding the repeated heroics of Kane Wiliamson, other batsmen have not been able to raise the bar. SRH invested heavily in Manish Pandey and bought him for a whopping 11 crore in the auction. However, Pandey has failed to give the desired output. This is one of the reasons of SRH’s repeated batting collapses.

Alex Hales, who was called in as replacement for David Warner, has been like a breath of fresh air for Hyderabad. In two of his last three innings, Hales has scored a couple of free flowing 40s to give the team a good start.

One player who has been a big disappointment is keeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha. He has been tried both at the top of the order and in the middle order but Saha has failed time and again.

Bowling

SRH have the best bowling line up out of all IPL franchises beyond doubt. Their bowlers are par excellence so much so that they can even instill fear in the opposition camp which is a rarity in T20s.

The other notable factor is the bowling strategy of SRH. Most teams try to stack their team with multiple bowling options to budget for the scenario when a couple of bowlers have off days. On the contrary, SRH have gone with their 5 bowlers, with each bowling the entire quota of 4 overs more often than not. The management has shown faith in them and the bowlers have responded well.

Billy Stanlake, who was very good for them in the starting matches picked up an injury midway and was ruled out of the entire season. Pacer Sandeep Sharma was given a chance in his place and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Sharma is a bowler from the Bhuvneshwar Kumar school of bolwing. He presents an upright seam and has a beautiful wrist position. Capable of swinging the ball both ways, Sandeep keeps it very tight and does not allow the opposition batsmen to milk him for runs.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar had to miss out on numerous matches due to injury but was back with a bang. The last over that he bowled to Colin de Grandhomme and Mandeep singh in the match against RCB was nothing less than a death bowling master class.

Siddarth Kaul is another Indian pacer who has been very impressive in this season.  Kaul has vastly evolved as a bowler this year. His pace is right up there and his yorkers are on point.

The leg spinner from Afghanistan, Rashid Khan is one of the best – if not the best – leg spinners around in the international circuit. His googlies are so deceptive that even the likes of AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli are not able to pick them.

All-rounders

Shakib al Hasan and Yusuf Pathan are the chief SRH all rounders. Shakib is bowling quite well. He is mixing up his lengths with his stock delivery being in that in-between length which is difficult to get under. He is also varying is pace as per the pitch and the match conditions in a bid to fox the batsmen.

As far as his batting is concerned, he would want to contribute a bit more. He is still scoring run-a-ball 20s and 30s but Shakib is a much better batsman than that.

Yusuf Pathan has won the team one match with a quick-fire 30 odd but lacks the required consistency. He is yet to get a crack with the ball. Deepak Hooda is warming the benches for now but could get a game in place of Pathan in the coming matches.

Road ahead

With 8 wins and just 2 losses in their 10 matches, SRH are leading the points table. They still have 4 matches to go in the league stage. Even if we go conservatively, Hyderabad would win at least 2 of their remaining 4 games. They would then have 20 points which would pretty much seal their top spot going into the knockouts.

Their bowling is doing more than one expected out of them. In fact, it is their bowling which has bailed them out of trouble on several occasions. It is now time for the SRH batsmen to step up their game and give their bowlers the much required support.

Despite their batting woes, SRH are strong candidates for clinching the IPL trophy this year. If they don’t end as winners due to a bad day in the knockouts, chances are rife that they would be the runners up of IPL 2018.

@Cricket World


 

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