Improvements for Sunrisers, but last lapse costs big
Sunrisers Hyderabad were one of the two teams, Delhi Daredevils being the other, to make a plethora of changes to its squad ahead of the this IPL. Two games before their exit, Sunrisers would have believed that despite the inconsistent run the plans had come off. They had one foot in the playoffs with just one win needed from two home games.
In the end, all of it counted for nought as Sunrisers crumbled under pressure. As much as the last game against Mumbai Indians, a virtual knockout game, would be blamed for their campaign, Sunrisers' inability to close out games ended up costing them the season. They did hang in there to win three close games, but they would end up ruing their failure to convert a spirited performance against Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils into points as the key reason for their sixth place in the standings.
Sunrisers were the only team that signed English cricketers during the player auction; They had three. The most high profile of them, Kevin Pietersen, backed out twice - at the start, for chasing his England dream and towards the end due to an injury after his national hopes had crashed. The other two England cricketers, Eoin Morgan and Ravi Bopara, were as mediocre as their national team have been in limited-overs cricket. That also cost the team dearly.
For the first time in three seasons in IPL, Sunrisers Hyderabad managed to register a hat-trick of wins. It started off with a high-scoring game against Rajasthan Royals in Mumbai, continued in an away game in Raipur against Delhi Daredevils and culminated at home with a narrow win against Kings XI Punjab. The longest streak of wins was definitely sweeter than the individual sparks of brilliances in their campaign.
It has to be the last league game against Mumbai Indians. What would hurt more than the loss is the manner in which they surrendered. In a winner-takes-all situation, Sunrisers just didn't turn up, gifting the playoffs place to Mumbai Indians.
Top of the class
Bhuvneshwar Kumar was excellent throughout the league stage. Moises Henriques was a revelation in the latter half. Still, their performances were overshadowed by David Warner. The opening batsman took the meaning of the term 'leading from the front' to a new level, at least in T20. Not only did he top the run charts for the league stage but he was also adjudged Man of the Match in four of Sunrisers' seven wins.
Kevin Pietersen's absence meant Eoin Morgan got an extended run in the tournament. But he could hardly justify the opportunity. No doubt that the price tag of Rs 1.5 crore wasn't enormous but the responsibility on his shoulders certainly was. One Man of the Match and a tally of 187 runs from nine innings were meagre.
Tip for 2016
Kane Williamson should be made better use of. In a struggling battling line-up, Williamson can be the perfect anchor, thus freeing up Warner and Dhawan at the top. Also, Sunrisers desperately need to bolster their domestic batting. KL Rahul and Hanuma Vihari will find it tough to break into any IPL eleven, yet they had to be persisted with. Naman Ojha, their most high-profile domestic batsman, had a horrendous run with bat as well.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo