Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) were recently in the news as they re-appointed David Warner as captain instead of Kane Williamson. Despite having made their IPL debut as late as 2013, replacing the now defunct Deccan Chargers, Sunrisers Hyderabad have been one of the most impressive franchises of recent years. If you look at their IPL record, they have made it to the play-offs in all but two editions.
In their debut year itself, SRH made it to the play-offs, finishing in fourth position. After ending sixth in 2014 and 2015, they roared back by clinching the crown in 2016, defeating Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in a high-scoring final.
SRH were runners-up in 2018, losing to Chennai Super Kings by eight wickets. In 2017 and 2019, they made it to the play-offs, but got stuck at fourth position. The Warner-led side will be hoping for better luck this time.
We take a look at three key factors that could determine SRH’s progress in IPL 2020.
#1 Warner-Bairstow reunion up top
For SRH, IPL 2019 was mostly about one batting pair - David Warner and Jonny Bairstow. The Ashes rivals combined to form the most destructive opening partnership in the history of IPL thus far. Fans and the franchise will be waiting with bated breath for their reunion at the top of the order.
For the record, the Warner-Bairstow duo featured in three consecutive century stands in 2019 - 118 against KKR in their opener in Kolkata, 110 against Rajasthan Royals in Hyderabad and 185 versus RCB in Hyderabad. During the last-mentioned stand, they broke the record for the highest opening partnership in the IPL, going past Gautam Gambhir and Chris Lynn, who added 184 for KKR against Gujarat Lions in 2017.
So dependent did SRH become on their opening pair, they looked a bit out of place when the duo were separated due to national duty. What worked perfectly for SRH last year was how the two complemented each other. While Warner was dominant in some matches, Bairstow was happy to play second fiddle, and vice versa. The 2019 edition demonstrated that Bairstow can be equally dangerous as Warner.
A repeat of 2019 will perhaps be asking for too much. But, if Warner and Bairstow can continue their good run, it will go a long way in determining SRH’s fortunes yet again.
Note: All statistics are as of February 29, 2020
#2 The middle-order star in Manish Pandey
30-year old Manish Pandey has featured in each and every edition of the IPL, and has seen a number of ups and downs over the years. He was the man of the match with 94 from 50 balls as Kolkata Knight Riders won the title in 2014. This was after he had managed only 143 and 136 in the previous two editions in 10 and seven matches respectively.
At his prime, Pandey can dismantle the best of attacks with his attractive and aggressive srokeplay. Now with a few impressive international knocks under his belt, the Karnataka batsman will be all the more confident this time round. He scored a key half-century in the Wellington T20I against New Zealand after India had lost their top and middle order cheaply. It made a big difference in the end.
Pandey can bring his expertise into play for SRH, and bail them out of tense situations. In an IPL career spanning 130 games, Pandey has 2,843 runs to his name at an average of 29.30 and a strike rate of 120.82 with one hundred and 15 fifties.
A strong performance will not only boost SRH’s chances, but will also enhance Pandey’s case at the World T20 in Australia later in the year.
#3 The all-round Afghan talent
In Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan, SRH are blessed to have two of the most talented T20 all-rounders in world cricket today. Both are dependable cricketers who might not always be outstanding, but very rarely produce underwhelming performances.
In last year’s edition, Nabi claimed eight wickets with his off-spin in as many games at an average of 24.25 and a strike rate of 21.87. With the bat, he contributed a quick 115 runs in 76 balls. In the BBL, playing for Melbourne Renegades, Nabi made 160 runs in six matches at a strike rate of 160 and picked up five wickets at a strike rate of 22.80. SRH will be hoping for some inspiring efforts from veteran Nabi this year as well.
As for Rashid Khan, he is more of a bowling all-rounder. In 15 matches last year, he claimed 17 wickets at an average of 22.17 and a strike rate of 21.17. With 21 scalps, he was the second-highest wicket taker in 2018. The crafty leg-spinner had a brilliant BBL season for Adelaide Strikers with 19 wickets in 15 games, including a hat-trick.
He has the ability to unsettle the best of batsmen with his guile, which is what makes his a precious gift for SRH. As a combination, the off and leg spin duo of Nabi and Khan can cause double trouble to the opponents.