A new beginning for Hyderabad
Big PictureThe IPL is a two-month long exercise but the controversies and issues it has thrown up in recent years have kept it in the news long after the last ball of each season has been bowled. The financial woes of Deccan Chargers was one such matter and it led to the franchise's termination by the BCCI, followed by its acquisition for US$79.4 million by the Chennai-based Sun TV network. The new owners of what is now the Sunrisers Hyderabad franchise retained 20 players from the original squad, but there have been some changes since.
The team had a forgettable season in 2012, finishing second from the bottom. Among the attempts made by its new owners to reverse those fortunes is introducing changes to the support staff. Tom Moody has been appointed coach, Waqar Younis has been roped in as a bowling consultant, Simon Helmot was named Moody's deputy, and Kris Srikkanth and VVS Laxman drafted in as team mentors.
Kumar Sangakkara has been retained as captain, though he won't play the team's match(es) in Chennai. There are few specialist batsmen in the squad, which relies primarily on allrounders - those of the bowling variety. Sunrisers, at the auction this year, bought Darren Sammy, Thisara Perera, and Nathan McCullum. They also strengthened their attack with the purchase of medium-pacer Clint McKay and have replaced Darren Bravo with South Africa opener Quinton de Kock.
Chargers managed to save face last year by winning their last two league games after beginning the season horribly, losing five in a row. Theirs was an all-round failure, with bowlers failing to defend sizeable targets when their batsmen clicked, and the batsmen not helping matters with their inconsistency when the bowling did better. Some of their overseas signings this time should boost the middle order and add more depth to the bowling attack.
Key playersShikhar Dhawan was the team's highest run-getter last year and remains a crucial player in the XI, though he'll miss the first two weeks of the tournament due to a hand injury he suffered during the Test series against Australia. Dhawan has de Kock, Parthiv Patel, and Sangakkara as potential opening partners, and has plenty of confidence coming in to this IPL after a successful domestic season and a whirlwind century on Test debut in Mohali.
Dale Steyn is the Sunrisers' biggest bowling asset, but equally important will be Sangakkara's leadership. He's playing under a new group of owners, though with a familiar face in coach Moody, who formerly coached Sri Lanka. Sangakkara had a poor IPL last year, averaging 18.18 in 12 games but has had an excellent run this year with a productive series against Bangladesh. If his own form was a contributing factor to the batting failures last year, he has a team with a group of players - Sammy, Steyn, Dhawan and himself - with recent successes that should be able to drive them to prevent the kind of beginning they had last season.
Big names inThisara Perera: Sunrisers spent US$675,000 on Perera, a reliable seamer with good variations and big-hitting batsman in the middle order. Perera has a strong reputation for the skills he brings, and his team might be faced with a tough choice between picking him and Sammy in the playing XI given the overseas quota, and Sangakkara and Steyn as likely starters.
Big names outDan Christian was bought for a whopping US$900,000 by Chargers in 2011, but that didn't seem to have paid dividends last year. Christian played less than half of his team's matchers and proved expensive with the ball. He was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore for this season, for US$100,000.
Below the radarAmit Mishra, the legspinner, has not played for India since August 2011 but has been doing well for Haryana of late. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 tournament, he picked up 10 wickets in five games at 10.80, conceding just six an over. Together with McCullum, he is one of two specialist spinners likely to get a full spell and has warmed up well for the IPL this season.
AvailabilitySangakkara and Perera will miss the Sunrisers' game in Chennai on April 25. Should Sunrisers qualify for the knockouts, it remains to be seen if the current Tamil Nadu government makes an exception for those matches vis-à-vis the participation of Sri Lankan players. There is a possibility McCullum might miss the latter stages of the tournament, as New Zealand are scheduled to tour England then, with the first Test beginning on May 16.
Siddhartha Talya is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo