Our final team preview for the 2021 IPL season is that of Sunrisers Hyderabad. SRH have the most settled team coming into this year’s competition although with a few key players returning from injury, it might well feel like they have made some new signings to add to what is an impressive and very consistent squad in the IPL.
SRH Team Preview IPL 2021 – Batting
The top of the order has been a strong suit for SRH for several IPL seasons and there is now reason to suspect it won’t be again in 2021.
David Warner will lead the team on the field and from the front when it comes to run scoring. The Australian sits third on the list of all time run scorers and is breathing heavily down Suresh Raina’s neck for second spot. The fact that he has played significantly fewer games than anyone in the top 5 and has scored his runs at a faster rate means that he can put up a pretty good argument for being the greatest IPL batsmen of all time.
Perhaps the single biggest concern for SRH batting wise in IPL 2021 is the way the fixtures and venues have fallen for them. We’ll look at that more generally later in the article but so important is Warner to this side that it worth paying special attention to his record now.
SRH are due to play their opening 9 fixtures on the traditionally slower pitches of Chennai and Delhi where Warner’s imperious record does drop off quite significantly. It would be fair to say that plenty of top-order batsmen’s records at these venues show similar traits but with Warner having been head and shoulders above all other SRH batsmen these past couple of seasons it does mean that others will need to pick up the slack.
Of course, the Sunrisers are blessed with plenty of options in that regard with Kane Williamson, Jonny Bairstow, Wriddhiman Saha and Manish Pandey on their books. Bairstow and Warner have been one of the most exciting and consistent opening partnerships in the IPL over the last couple of years but how much game time they get together this season will be largely dependent on how SRH choose to balance their side. With Rashid Khan an almost certain starter, if SRH opt for Warner, Bairstow and Williamson then that’s their quota of overseas talent gone and they’ll be forced to leave all-rounders such as Mitch March and Jason Holder on the bench.
We saw at the back end of last season that in a bid to get Jason Holder in the side and cover the injury to Vijay Shankar, SRH were forced to drop Bairstow and replace him with Saha who in fairness had a very good finish to the season with 2 fifties from the 4 innings he played. With Bairstow having struggled in the recent Test series vs spin and the 9 opening games looking very likely to be contests dominated by slow bowlers then might SRH think about doing something similar at the start of IPL 2021?
Thereafter SRH have an exciting group of talented young batsmen to choose from. Priyam Garg highlighted his potential with a 26 ball half-century against CSK last season and he has been in good form during the 50 over domestic competition that recently finished. Meanwhile Abdul Samad who is younger still than Garg, showed his ability as a ball striker by finishing last season with a strike rate of 170+. They are joined by the left-handed Abishek Sharma who has been in the squad for the past few seasons but is still only 20-years-old. Again, Sharma comes into this IPL season off the back of centuries in both 20 over & 50 over domestic cricket and he offers a useful option with his slow left-armers.
At the other end of the experience scale, SRH have picked up Kedar Jadhav after his departure from CSK. He certainly offers a solid option for the Sunrisers in that middle order and if nothing else, having a guy with over 80 caps for his country in white ball cricket can only help the aforementioned youngsters with their development. Depending on how SRH choose to balance their side, it seems likely that these 4 players will be competing for a couple of spots in the final XI.
As noted above, SRH then have to choose which player(s) will perform the role of all-rounder for them this season. Last season, it looked like it might be Mitch Marsh before he broke down with another injury during the opening match. Vijay Shankar then started to hit some form before he too ended up on the treatment table and Jason Holder was given his chance late on and impressed. Let’s not also forget the evergreen Mohammed Nabi who good also prove a solid option with his off-spin.
If SRH do opt to select one of either Bairstow and Williamson then which of the 3 overseas all-rounders should they play in their place? My concern about Marsh would be his fitness. He was unable to bowl at the start of BBL and when later he did begin to contribute some overs, he again suffered an injury. I’m not sure whether he is fit enough to bowl again and even if he is, will SRH take the risk? The other problem with Marsh is that sides will undoubtedly target him with slow bowlers particularly early in his innings and all IPL sides have at least a couple of high quality performers to challenge the Australian’s technique.
Perhaps SRH should stick with Jason Holder, a player who until recently wasn’t really viewed as having the game to be a success in T20 cricket particularly in comparison to a few of his West Indian peers. However, Holder was brilliant for SRH in the games that he played at the back end of last season, picking up 14 wickets in just 7 appearances and contributing some handy runs late on. He followed that up with further impressive displays during a short stint for the eventual BBL champions Sydney Sixers.
SRH Team Preview IPL 2021 – Bowling
In addition to their excellent batting stocks, SRH have bountiful options with the ball and they will be happy to welcome back the leader of their attack, Bhuvneshwar Kumar following his return from injury and heroics in the deciding match against England.
In fact, SRH have an incredible 5 domestic seamers to choose from whom have all been capped at international level with Buvi joined by Siddarth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma, Khaleel Ahmed and Thangarasu Natarajan. It was Sharma and Natarajan who were first choice picks last year and you’d imagine that their left-arm option + Buvi’s right-arm swingers and potentially the hit the deck style of bowling that Holder offers would mean that SRH have very good variety in the seam department not to mention a bench that is second to none.
Of course the star man is undoubtedly Rashid Khan and he once again led the team’s bowling charts with 20 wickets last season. Beyond that he was also the most economical bowler in IPL 2020 and he bowled the most dot balls of any spinner in the same period. In general, sides seem to have taken the decision that it is better to simply survive and take risks against SRH’s other bowlers than to allow Rashid the chance to get amongst them. However, with the return of Buvi and the ability to deploy stronger 5th and 6th bowling options this season that tactic might not seem so appealing. Rashid has generally claimed a wicket once every 20 balls during his IPL career, if teams begin to take chances against him expect that to drop to closer to 15.
Rashid Khan is joined by a third Afghan colleague in the form of Mujeeb Ur Rahman. While Mujeeb is undoubtedly a talented white ball cricketer it’s difficult to see how he’ll get much game time in a side that has established and settled overseas options and therefore his signing is a bit of a head scratcher, perhaps SRH just wanted to keep him away from another franchise that would be able to better utilise him?
The more likely spinners to get a chance are the 2 home grown left-arm options that SRH have available to them. Shahbaz Nadeem took a bit of a mauling against England in the first Test of the series but that performance (particularly for England fans) seems like a long time ago. Meanwhile SRH also moved to secure the services of Jagadeesha Suchith who has been around the IPL with various franchises for the past 6 seasons without being given an extended run in the team. Still his experience at domestic level means he is a fairly safe pair of hands if the brain trust in Hyderabad opts to go with another front line spinner.
SRH Team Preview IPL 2021 – Venues and Fixtures
As mentioned before, SRH have a difficult initial 9 games on the slower tracks of Delhi and Chennai, conditions that might not suit all of their batsmen. That being said, while the Arun Jaitely Stadium was never an especially happy hunting ground for David Warner at least in his early career, it has been a venue where others have flourished
My feeling is that SRH have the accumulators in their side to post competitive scores on these pitches and of course they have a bowling attack capable of defending them.
The Sunrisers then move onto play 3 games at Eden Gardens where Buvi and seam bowlers in general have had great success. SRH’s strong bench could well be a factor in them being able to deploy some bowlers who up until this point would have had limited opportunities to play.
They finish their season with 2 games in Bangalore and Sandeep Sharma will be especially disappointed that he doesn’t have the opportunity to dismiss his bunny Virat Kohli whose wicket accounts for a large portion of his success at this venue