Sunrisers Hyderabad batsman Kane Williamson has said it will be difficult for his team to reprise their title-winning feat from last year, and that they will need a different approach for IPL 2017. Williamson's thoughts echo those of coach Tom Moody, who felt a particular brand of cricket doesn't guarantee success all the time.
"Yeah, it's never easy [to replicate the performance of last year], but I think it's important that you go into it with an open mind and look to take it on, perhaps, a little bit differently because things won't always be the same as they were," Williamson told ESPNcricinfo on the eve of the season-opener between Sunrisers and Royal Challengers Bangalore. "I look forward to the first game against Bangalore, should be a tough one."
Bonding well as a team, according to Williamson, remains critical to achieving the kind of results Sunrisers had last year, especially as they have a few fresh faces in their 25-member unit. The defending champions bought eight players, including four foreigners, at the auction in February after offloading six from last year's squad.
"Our team is a little bit different to what it was last year. Lot of similar faces, but there are some new players, so it is important we gel well with a slightly different unit," Williamson said. "Always tough backing up [what Sunrisers did in 2016], but we have actually quite a new-look side this year as well with a slight change of personnel. But that's very exciting.
"Last year, I think as a team we gelled really well. There were a number of great contributions from the likes of David Warner and Mustafizur Rahman, who were brilliant throughout the campaign, but there were also a number of cameo performances that assisted all the way along, so there was a good team culture last year. It is great playing in the IPL, meeting a bunch of new guys and players that you played against a lot in the international calendar, and a lot of local talent as well. So, it is always nice coming here."
Williamson, 26, himself hasn't always been a first choice in the XI, and has only played eight games for Sunrisers over the last two years. Last year, he played his first game in the third week of the tournament after missing the initial few games with a hamstring injury. Williamson went on to have a middling campaign, and finished with 124 runs from six games, at a strike-rate of 101.63, significantly lower than his career strike-rate of 118.55 in the T20 format. What does he put it down to?
"Pretty small sample size?" he suggested, with a laugh. "Look, it's always different playing in different conditions, different situations, batting in a few different spots. I don't really think about that stuff too much. It's always about trying to do what the team requires at that point in time, whatever the strike-rate needs to be, it needs to be, but you aren't just focusing on that."
Williamson, however, has had a terrific run recently across formats. Apart from scoring two Test hundreds against South Africa, he has racked up scores of 73*, 12, 60 and 13 in the four T20I innings since January. Williamson, though, is aware that those numbers may not necessarily guarantee a longer run in the team.
"[Maybe] score a few runs, maybe bowl a few overs, [maybe] take a few catches and that sort of clichéd stuff [to hold down a place]," he said with a laugh. "But, look, it is important that as a team member you are just looking to give to the side whether you are playing a lot or whether you are not, and prepare well. If you are given the opportunity, you look forward to taking it.
"But, you know it is a great thing to see the team do well. It was great watching them, having played a little bit last year, but a lot of it on the sidelines. It was still fantastic to be a part of that success and all we want to do this year is try and contribute to the success that we might have this year."