Can Sunrisers' bowling might take them all the way?

Bowling-heavy Sunrisers seek middle-order lift (7:09)

Ajit Agarkar and Brad Hodge are impressed with the depth and all-round strength of the squad (7:09)

Where they finished in 2018: Runners-up in the tournament, and on top of the league table with 18 points in 14 games


As with seasons past, this year too Sunrisers Hyderabad's main strength is their varied and potent bowling attack. The duo of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan almost guarantee eight overs that the opposition will have to tread carefully, but the support cast is what makes Sunrisers' bowling so good.

There's Khaleel Ahmed and Siddharth Kaul, who have both been on the periphery of the Indian team in recent times. There's the exciting Basil Thampi, who burst onto the scene as a yorker specialist but now has an excellent Ranji Trophy season behind him too. There's also Sandeep Sharma and T Natarajan, both with proven T20 credentials, while Billy Stanlake provides a pacy and incisive option among the overseas contingent.

Sunrisers also strengthened their spin attack with the addition of Shahbaz Nadeem, and it won't be going too far to say that, as far as bowling goes, they have the personnel to account for any opposition or conditions. Since 2016, the year their formidable attack took shape and they won the title, Sunrisers have had the best economy rates in the Powerplay and death overs. In the middle overs, they are second, their figure of 7.88 only marginally behind Mumbai Indians' 7.78. Not only do they keep the runs down, but they also pick up wickets. They are near the top in averages for the Powerplay (third) and middle overs (second with 27.98 to KKR's 27.75), and the best at picking up wickets in the death overs.


Sunrisers made a smart trade in getting the trio of Vijay Shankar, Shahbaz Nadeem and Abhishek Sharma for Shikhar Dhawan, but Dhawan's departure adds to their batting worries. David Warner will be back this season, but whether he finds his old touch straightaway or not remains a question, as does the identity of who will partner him at the top.

Kane Williamson or Jonny Bairstow seem like the likely candidates, and between them the three do form a good top order, though one that isn't used to working together as much perhaps.

The middle and lower order, though, has lacked firepower for Sunrisers. Manish Pandey had a poor run last season and while Yusuf Pathan is still capable of sending balls into crowds, he does so less regularly now. Their auction picks - Bairstow, Martin Guptill and Wriddhiman Saha - don't really address that, but Vijay Shankar's arrival could help, though they might still need to depend on the likes of Deepak Hooda and Ricky Bhui to step up as finishers.

The overseas question

Three overseas spots are sealed - Williamson, Warner and Rashid. Warner might be rusty, but he will certainly get a long rope at the top even if he fails in the first few games given his past record for the franchise. Williamson and Warner will have to shoulder a large part of the batting responsibility. Rashid, of course, has rapidly become one of the world's top bowlers in the shortest format. The men who will vie for the fourth overseas spot, at least at the start, are likely to be Jonny Bairstow, Shakib Al Hasan and Mohammad Nabi. Given that the bowling is already strong, Shakib might have to miss out since Sunrisers already have Shahbaz Nadeem as a left-arm spinner. Between Bairstow and Nabi, team balance would indicate a preference for Bairstow, since he can don the keeping gloves. That means a top order of Warner, Bairstow and Williamson - as good as any in the world.


Like all teams, Sunrisers will have to deal with early departures, in their case of Warner and Bairstow, with both CA and ECB having said that their World Cup players will be withdrawn from the tournament on May 1. In Guptill they have a readymade replacement for Warner, and having bought back Wriddhiman Saha, they are covered as regards keeping too. Replacing Bairstow's dynamic batting will be more difficult, though. The other thing they'll be hoping for is that Williamson recovers from his shoulder injury well, and quickly.


The best XI

1 David Warner, 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Manish Pandey, 5 Vijay Shankar, 6 Yusuf Pathan, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 9 Shahbaz Nadeem, 10 Siddharth Kaul, 11 Khaleel Ahmed

Head coach: Tom Moody. Bowling coach: Muttiah Muralitharan. Mentor: VVS Laxman

Will they make the playoffs?

The truism in cricket that bowlers win you matches has been shown to hold in T20 cricket too, especially by Sunrisers. They have always had a couple of holes in the batting but have still made the playoffs in the last three years, winning in 2016, achieving fourth place in 2017, and being runners-up in 2018. They should make it four out of four this year.