Up-and-down Sunrisers sweat over key players' form

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Jayawardene: Nehra can allow Sunrisers to play extra foreign batsman

2015 form

Sixth, or third from the bottom, after winning half of their 14 matches. At one stage, towards the end of the league, they were in third position.

Big picture

Only three seasons old in the IPL, Sunrisers Hyderabad have already witnessed the highs and lows of a T20 league. After making the playoffs in their maiden season, they ended the next two in the bottom half of the table.

In IPL 2015, they looked set to make the playoffs, but lost their last two matches and were bunted down the table. Often, their middle and lower orders could not capitalise on the strong starts from David Warner and Shikhar Dhawan. To rectify that this season, they bought Yuvraj Singh, Aditya Tare and Deepak Hooda to add to their retained players’ list of Eoin Morgan, Naman Ojha and Moises Henriques. If Yuvraj’s poor form in the World T20 was not enough of a worry, an ankle injury has ruled him out for two weeks. The Sunrisers thinktank would also be bothered by the batting form of Warner, who was moved to the middle order by Australia in the World T20, and Shikhar Dhawan. Trent Boult’s lack of match practice – he didn’t play a single game in the World T20 – could also be an issue.

They have added more teeth to their bowling by purchasing two in-form quicks, Ashish Nehra and Mustafizur Rahman. The two left-armers will join Bhuvneshwar Kumar, their best bowler last season, and Boult. Legspinner Karn Sharma will continue to lead their thin spin attack. In the allrounders category, Sunrisers have two Australian options – Henriques and Ben Cutting.

Overall, the real push Sunrisers need for a berth in the playoffs will have to come in the second half of the season, something they lacked in the previous two editions. “With the balance we have, there won’t be any excuse this year,” captain Warner said before the start of the season.

Burning questions

Will Sunrisers tinker with their trusted opening pair of Dhawan and Warner to include Kane Williamson at the top? Or will they continue with Dhawan and Warner, and move Williamson down, or maybe leave him out of the XI? To strengthen the pace attack, will they pick Mustafizur or Boult to assist the Indian combination of Nehra and Bhuvneshwar?

The go-to men

David Warner hammered seven fifties in IPL 2015 with an overall strike rate of 156.54. Even though his bat barely spoke in the recent World T20, a seven-week tournament bodes well as he looks to find his touch again.

Ashish Nehra could be their trump card to take down the opposition’s top order, with his wicket-taking abilities in the Powerplay. Twenty-two wickets last season – fourth overall – and an economy rate of 5.94 in the 2016 World T20 underline his importance.

Bargain buy

For the kind of promise he has shown so far in international cricket, and the form he exhibited in only three matches in the World T20 – his haul of nine wickets included a five-for – Mustafizur Rahman was not too expensive a purchase at INR 1.4 crore ($US 208,000). Having more subcontinent experience, he could even get the nod ahead of Trent Boult in the XI.

Availability

Yuvraj’s exclusion for two weeks is the only injury blow.

Coaches

Head coach – Tom Moody, spin-bowling coach – Muttiah Muralitharan, mentor – VVS Laxman

Quote

“The way he [Nehra] has come back, he looks stronger and he knows what he has to do to play at the highest level. I have been seeing that and I think if we go back to the Australian series where India beat us, the way he started and finished was a fantastic effort. I think he is a great bonus and plus point for Sunrisers Hyderabad going into the season.”
Captain David Warner is banking on Ashish Nehra’s skills.

Vishal Dikshit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.


Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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