Sunrisers Hyderabad made complete use of their home advantage, with seven of their ten victories in the league stages coming at their home ground (Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Uppal), en route to the play-offs of what turned out to be a dream debut season for the franchise in the Indian Premier League 2013.
Their only loss at home came against Chennai Super Kings under bizarre circumstances as a new track was preferred for that particular league match to the typical spin friendly track, that helped Sunrisers skittle the visiting teams out without breaking a sweat last season, at Uppal.
The fresh pitch, which turned out to be a flat one, played straight into the hands of CSK who set a daunting target of 224 to inflict the first home defeat on the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Amit Mishra, who was tormenting the visiting teams till then, looked flat and went wicketless, conceding 41 in his quota of four overs.
The thumping defeat by the hands of CSK and the fact that they were able to win only 3 of their 9 away matches in the IPL, reveals more about their monotonous approach.
Are Sunrisers just a one trick pony? With no home advantage in CLT20, what are the possible hindrances they could face?
There are a few major issues that Sunrisers need to address real quick to be competitive in the Champions League main stages. Among other aspects that would be discussed are – the starting eleven, a conundrum and the final verdict.
Life without spinners:
Though successful in helpful conditions, Amit Mishra has been a dud for the Sunrisers on flat tracks
The match against CSK also laid bare Sunrisers’ over dependence on their spinners. While the combination of their leggies, Mishra and Karan Sharma, worked wonders in home fixtures, the duo failed to inspire confidence in their away games.
Amit Mishra took 12 wickets in seven home games at an economy rate of 4.68 as against only 9 wickets in the remaining 10 games at a substandard economy rate of 8.1 runs per over (the aforementioned match versus CSK has been excluded and is considered as an away game in the analysis, owing to the explicit difference in the nature of the pitch).
The fact that Mishra, the Sunrisers’ premier bowler of the season, was not even deemed fit to complete his quota of four overs in 4 of their 9 away matches, shows that he is not dependable when pitches turn alien to spin. Karan Sharma’s case was no different either.
You really cannot find fault with them. Just as a fast bowler cannot be expected to take wickets on a turning track, a spinner should also be exempted from any such expectations on a flat deck. But I have pointed it out only to emphasize the fact that Sunrisers are in a spot of bother as a result of their inflexible approach.
What is worse is Mohali, Rajasthan, Delhi and Ahmedabad could offer totally diverse tracks to that of Sunrisers’ liking while Ranchi could go either way, adding to their woes.
On the other hand, it is true that Dale Steyn will relish being given a chance to bowl on better tracks. But we all witnessed that Steyn, despite being at his best for Deccan Chargers in the 2012 IPL season, could not make any difference to the team’s dismal showing as the opponent teams decided to play him out and target lesser bowlers.
Sunrisers should consider dropping Biplab Samantray who looks to be in the line up for the sake of completing the playing 11 and play Anand Rajan in his place, the 26-year-old Madhya Pradesh fast bowler, who hits good speeds for an Indian paceman.
While it might seem like an overdose of fast bowlers with Thisara Perera, Darren Sammy and Ishant Sharma already in the team, I would explain the rationale behind it later in the article.
Cameron White and JP Duminy vs Darren Sammy:
Sunrisers let Cameron White play 13 of their 17 matches in the IPL 2013, captaining majority of them, despite his woeful form, as his replacements in Kumar Sangakkara and Quinton de Kock struggled even more.
With Jean-Paul Duminy back, ideally, he should be a straight swap for White. But there is one more aspect to ponder over here. Although White never managed to scale greater heights in Baggy Green, the 30-year-old with 3823 runs in 172 T20 matches, widely known for his six hitting abilities, stands 12th in the list of leading run scorers in T20s.
White, just like most other Australian batsmen these days, has his troubles in tackling spinners on helpful surfaces. So, with 50% of Sunrisers’ matches played at their home venue last season, could that be attributed as a reason for his failure?
Here, it’s important to note that what may work against a player in a particular tournament, may not necessarily mean failure in different conditions. For example, you cannot drop Raina in IPL for performing poorly in Big Bash League. While he may look scopeless when being bounced out, he could still be the star that he is on his return to IPL.
The viewpoint further gains weight when you take into consideration that White, one of the standout performers for Deccan Chargers in only the previous (2012) IPL season, had scored 479 runs in 12 matches at an average of 43.54 on good batting tracks. In this CLT20, he is more likely to play on pitches that suit his style of play.
At the same time, Sunrisers cannot leave out Duminy too, as the batting order will lose its direction if Dhawan is dismissed early.
They cannot afford to go in with a top 4 that consists of Parthiv Patel and Hanuma Vihari, the Indian Under-19 player who despite possessing a very bright future ahead, hasn’t developed into a dependable T20 player yet.
Drop Darren Sammy:
With Cameron White and JP Duminy available options, it will not be easy for Darren Sammy to find a place in the playing XI
So what I would suggest, is it would serve well for the Sunrisers to have both of White and Duminy facing 35 balls each on a good batting deck than Sammy facing 15 balls at the maximum, coming in at no.6.
Sammy, at number six, also delays what Perera, one of the most destructive hitters in subcontinental conditions, can bring to the crease. After Sammy’s arrival last season, one of the two big hitters, more often than or not, ended up being underutilized by the Sunrisers.
The very idea of dropping Sammy might seem unfair after his heroics last season, but as it turns out, with the conditions nowhere as close to they were in IPL for Sunrisers, and with Sammy not known to contribute consistently with the bat, Tom Moody needs a change of strategy.
This is why the inclusion of Anand Rajan has been stressed upon, as dropping Sammy leaves short of one pace bowling option. You cannot always trust Ishant and Perera to complete their quota.
A top 5 of Shikhar Dhawan, Hanuma Vihari, JP Duminy, Cameron White and Thisara Perera looks much adept at handling the opposition than the one that is diluted by the inclusion of Parthiv Patel and delays Perera stamping his authority in the game.
If Sunrisers play both Sammy and Perera, they must make sure that both of them get to face a minimum of 20-25 balls each in every game.
Considering that they are more likely to be two down early into the game or for nothing much on the board, I would not entertain the possibility of having two big hitters and Biplab Samantray resurrecting the game.
The Chris Lynn conundrum:
The non inclusion of Chris Lynn, one of the brightest T20 talents around the world, is perplexing, especially when you are so desperately in need of batting reinforcements. Why would you not prefer to have someone who has a strike rate of 138.51, along with a healthy average of over 27?
After considering all the points above, the Sunrisers line up should look like this – Shikhar Dhawan, Hanuma Vihari, JP Duminy, Cameron White, Thisara Perera, Ashish Reddy, Karan Sharma, Amit Mishra, Dale Steyn, Anand Rajan, Ishant Sharma.
However, I see one of Duminy or White getting dropped for Sammy with Samantray and Patel diluting the batting order. This move is most likely to end up spelling doom for Sunrisers’ hopes.
An early exit after progressing from the qualification stages.