IPL 2018: A blow without a warning!

David Warner's absence is definitely a setback, but Sunrisers Hyderabad is confident of its bench strength.

Taking Charge: Kane Williamson with head coach Tom Moody during a Sunrisers Hyderabad practice session at the IPL last year. With David Warner gone, Williamson is captain now.   -  RAJEEV BHATT

A lot of thought had gone into Sunrisers Hyderabad’s planning for IPL 2018. But the totally unexpected absence of the nominated skipper David Warner, banned from this year’s event for his role in the ball-tampering controversy in South Africa, is bound to cause a lot of redrafting of strategies.

To begin with, Kane Williamson, the New Zealand skipper, has been named SRH captain in the place of Warner.

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“We are very happy with the way the auction has gone. We could retain the core group which helped SRH to be a formidable force,” SRH mentor and one of India’s cricketing greats, V. V. S. Laxman, had said earlier.

By retaining the important players, not necessarily in terms of reputation, but those who have played a significant role in its campaign, SRH is quite obviously not too bothered by the re-entry of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals.

“The competition will be tough as always. And both Chennai and Rajasthan are champion sides who can surprise any team on their day. But, we have the confidence in our strength and will plan accordingly,” says Laxman.

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Shikhar Dhawan is explosive at the top in batting, while swing merchant Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the Afghan leggie, Rashid Khan, are top class in bowling.

“It is imperative to get good starts with the bat and the ball. And we have world class performers who can change the course of a match in a couple of overs,” says Laxman.

 

One of the acknowledged features of the SRH culture has been the free environment it provides the players and also the liberty to be a part of every move in the game-plan.

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“We take pride in this. We want the players to be fresh in mind and express themselves — both on and off the field — to contribute to the team’s success. The credit for this goes to Moody (head coach) and Murali (bowling coach),” points out the star batsman.

If there was an area of concern for SRH it was the brittle middle-order. “Yes, that’s why we have looked at someone like the vastly under-rated Yusuf Pathan, whom we believe to be a potential match-winner, and Manish Pandey, one of the best T20 players around now,” says Laxman.

Player to watch

With the flamboyant Warner banned, the focus shifts to southpaw Shikhar Dhawan as the player to watch.

IN GOOD NICK: All eyes are on Shikhar Dhawan as he has become the key player for Sunrisers in the place of Warner.   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

 

The 32-year-old Dhawan has been in very good form of late. Known for his early onslaughts, he had also emerged as the third highest run-getter with 479 (after team-mate Warner’s 641 and Gautam Gambhir’s 498) in the last edition of the IPL.

Player Quote

Wriddhiman Saha: Maybe, initially, we will be affected by Warner’s absence, but with the reserves we have, it won’t impact much. We have a good middle-order in Kane Williamson, Deepak Hooda and Manish Pandey. If we get a good start from the openers, the pressure on the middle order will be less. We have enough replacements to make a good side and fill the void caused by Warner’s non-availability.

Squad: Kane Williamson (captain), Alex Hales, Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Manish Pandey, Rashid Khan, Wriddhiman Saha, Siddharth Kaul, Deepak Hooda, Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Carlos Brathwaite, Shakib al Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Shreevats Goswami, Mohd. Nabi, Chris Jordan, Basil Thampi, T. Natarajan, Sachin Baby, Bipul Sharma, Mehdi Hasan, Ricky Bhui, Billy Stanlake and Tanmay Agarwal.