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Sunrisers confident Alex Hales can ease Warner loss

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Runorder: Can Sunrisers overcome the loss of David Warner? (4:07)

Ajit Agarkar, Cyrus Broacha and the ESPNcricinfo team discuss the potential impact of the absence of the explosive Australian opener (4:07)

Sunrisers Hyderabad suffered a huge loss - their first-choice captain and best batsman David Warner was barred from playing the 2018 IPL because of the ball-tampering scandal in South Africa - but the franchise is confident his replacement, England's Alex Hales, will succeed as an opener.

"We strongly felt that he is of international quality, and being a right-hander, should be the perfect complement to left-handed Shikhar Dhawan," Sunrisers coach Tom Moody said in Hyderabad. "So we opt to use him at the top of the order for a left-right combination.

"And he's recently dedicated to white-ball cricket. He's fully committed to develop and grow as a white-ball cricketer, and that's important to our philosophies as a management group. We believe in identifying talent prepared to grow as individual cricketers because we, obviously, as a franchise will grow with them."

Hales will have big shoes to fill. Warner led Sunrisers to the IPL title in 2016, with 848 runs - the second-highest tally in the season - at a strike-rate of over 150. Last season, he was the tournament's top scorer as Sunrisers made the knockouts.

Moody was confident the Sunrisers bench strength would make up for Warner's absence. "Yes, Dave has been important for us the last couple of years, and he's led the team well. He's batted very well, but we feel that the players we have in our squad are capable of taking the opportunity.

"Other teams have lost players to injuries too. We're replacing a good captain in Warner, who was vice-captain of Australian team, with another international captain. There's nothing we can do with what's happened with Warner. We've moved on from that, so it's probably a good opportunity for everyone else to move on."

Moody said the new Sunrisers captain Kane Williamson was an astute reader of the game. "Strategically, Kane's very, very sound," Moody said. "He played an important role for the Sunrisers over the last couple of years as an assistant, even though he was not a noted leader, named vice-captain or anything. He showed his leadership in support to Warner in the last few years, and clearly showed that not only is he a natural leader, but he's someone who's prepared to step up and stand out."

The upshot of Warner's success at the top of the order, however, is that he took pressure off the rest. Sunrisers' middle order has been strengthened this season with the additions of Manish Pandey and Yusuf Pathan.

"There are four, five top-class batsmen in the line-up, which makes it a well-rounded unit," VVS Laxman, the Sunrisers mentor, said. "It was a conscious effort going into the auction, because over the last two, three years we felt our middle order did not perform to expectations. Shikhar and Warner have been exceptional, and I'm sure Shikhar will continue his good run even this year. This year, we've got players who can do well in middle overs, and players who can finish games. We have the liberty of picking from four to five combinations in any given situation to take the field, which not many teams can boast of."

The Sunrisers bowling attack will be spearheaded by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who along with Warner were the only players retained by the franchise. Now, with Shakib Al Hasan, Billy Stanlake and Chris Jordan joining Bhuvneshwar and Rashid Khan, the Sunrisers bowling is stronger.

"This time around, it is definite that we will be playing two spinners since Shakib Al Hasan will fit the bill as an allrounder," Muttiah Muralitharan, the bowling coach, said. "The best part is that Shakib can bowl well in both Powerplay and death overs, while Rashid Khan has been a wicket-taking bowler for us last season. Maybe, we will switch roles between them as far as Powerplays and death overs are concerned."