Ben Jones previews Sunrisers Hyderabad ahead of the 2019 IPL season.
Last Season: Runners-up
In 2018, Sunrisers had arguably the most distinctive style of any team in the competition. A bowling-heavy strategy was marked most clearly by their extraordinary defence of 118 against Mumbai Indians, among the best performances in T20 history. Across the competition as a whole, their run to the final was relatively assured, only falling to an accomplished Chennai in the final, ending a successful season that they will be looking to repeat in 2019. With a strong list, and plenty of experience, Sunrisers will start this season among the favourites.
New Zealand opener Martin Guptill adds some serious power to the top of the order, though unlikely as a replacement for Shikhar Dhawan (traded to Delhi), given the cost of an extra overseas spot. More likely, Guptill will cover David Warner when he heads to the World Cup. Vijay Shankar, Shahbaz Nadeem and Abhishek Sharma also arrived from Delhi, the other noticeable overseas signing being the arrival of English wicket-keeper Jonny Bairstow.
- Total players: 23
- Numbers of overseas players: 8
- Openers: David Warner, Martin Guptill
- Middle-order batsmen: Manish Pandey, Kane Williamson, Ricky Bhui
- Wicketkeepers: Wriddhiman Saha, Shreevats Goswami, Jonny Bairstow
- Allrounders: Shakib Al Hasan, Abhishek Sharma, Vijay Shankar, Yusuf Pathan, Deepak Hooda, Mohammad Nabi
- Wristspinners: Rashid Khan
- Fingerspinners: Shahbaz Nadeem
- Fast Bowlers: Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Khaleel Ahmed, Siddarth Kaul, Basil Thampi, T Natarajan, Sandeep Sharma, Billy Stanlake
2 Saha (k)
3 Williamson (c)
7 Yusuf Pathan
8 Rashid Khan
9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar
The presence of Rashid Khan in any team gives them a hope. The Afghanistan star is a world-renowned as a lethal bowler, and has a more than reasonable claim to be the best T20 bowler of all time – last year, nobody took more T20 wickets than him. Indeed, nobody got close. His partnership with Shakib was a key aspect of the Sunrisers attack in 2018, and it will likely remain so this year. However, he could well have another role. Given that Sunrisers batting depth is likely to remain a weakness, Rashid could be deployed as a pinch-hitter, helping to extend that batting order – since the start of 2018, he scores at 10.07rpo, his power hitting a useful asset that Sunrisers could exploit.
Last year Sunrisers’ economy rate in the last five overs of the innings was just 8.91rpo, comfortably the lowest for any team in the competition, and three runs-per-over better than the worst side in the competition, Royal Challengers Bangalore. With the key performers behind that excellence still at the franchise (Bhuvneshwar, Kaul), they hope to back up that strong death record with yet more late-innings mastery.
The make-up of their overseas list means that they keep the bulk of their squad for the whole tournament. Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Mohammed Nabi and Rashid Khan will all be sticking around, meaning that the balance of the side will remain essentially the same throughout – the strength of their overseas roster, already considerable, is amplified by this.
The variety of your attack is crucial in T20 cricket, with head-to-head records informing strategy more than ever. Sunrisers are able to boast one of almost every bowling type: right-arm seam, left-arm seam, leg-spin, off-spin, slow-left arm. The only bowling type they are without is left-arm wrist spin, traditionally the rarest technique and perhaps the most dispensable, particularly given the presence of Rashid Khan. Sunrisers’ skipper will have lots, and lots of options to turn to.
The Sunrisers line-up is designed for ruthlessly chasing mid-range totals, and as a consequence is lacking in power hitters later in the order. Yusuf Pathan or Vijay Shankar is likely going to be tasked with playing this role, but neither is as effective as similar players at other franchises. Mohammad Nabi has had success in other leagues in this role but he is unlikely to get into the side ahead of Shakib, given the Bangladeshi’s IPL experience. For Sunrisers to really explode in the last few overs, they’ll need to rely on maintaining very high dismissal rates in the middle overs, leaving plenty of wickets in hand at the death.
The absence of Shikhar Dhawan does make a difference to the balance of the side. The fact they have replaced a domestic world-class opener with an overseas one does skew their roster in one direction. They now need to select Wriddhiman Saha or Manish Pandey as an opener in all likelihood, weakening a strength – overperformance from one of those two is fundamental for Sunrisers to balance the side.