VVS Laxman, the Sunrisers Hyderabad's batting mentor, feels that empty stands won't affect the quality of cricket in the 2020 IPL but he is a little wary of the nature of pitches in the UAE.
The Sunrisers, along with the Delhi Capitals, are the last of the eight IPL sides to reach the UAE. Both sides took the same chartered flight and landed in the UAE on Sunday. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the tournament will be played behind closed doors in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
"I can assure all the fans of the game that they will really enjoy the competition even though there won't be any crowd or any spectators on the ground," Laxman said in a video released by the franchise on Sunday. "Don't ever think that the energy or the quality of cricket will come down.
"Probably the wickets may be on the slower side but we have to just wait and see because we may just be surprised with the efforts put in by the ground staff. The outfield will be fantastic but the wickets are something that I hope will be well taken care of by the ground staff."
In the 2020 IPL auction, the Sunrisers had focused on young Indian middle-order batsmen. They picked Priyam Garg, Abdul Samad and Virat Singh among others. Laxman said that it was a conscious effort on part of the management.
"In the auction, it was a very intentional effort to have the youngsters. While they are youngsters, they are all the most prolific performers in domestic cricket. When you see the composition of our team, we had a lot of experienced players from both overseas and India. But when we look at the domestic players, we [were] required to strengthen our batting, especially our middle-order batting. So we went with the performer in the last couple of seasons."
Ahead of the auction, the Sunrisers had made changes to their coaching personnel too. Trevor Bayliss replaced Tom Moody as the head coach, while Brad Haddin came in for Simon Helmot as the assistant coach. Haddin and Bayliss have worked together before, winning the 2012 Champions League T20 for Sydney Sixers as captain and coach, respectively. Bayliss had also coached the Kolkata Knight Riders from 2012 to 2015, a period during which they won two IPL titles. Laxman is upbeat about the prospect of working with both of them.
"Trevor is one of the most successful coaches in world cricket; England won the World Cup for the first time under his coaching," Laxman said. "He is someone who I have always admired and all the interactions I have had with him have been excellent - I learnt something with every interaction. He is a cool, calm person and an amazing human being. At the same time, he has the temperament of handling the best of teams and the best of players.
"I played against Brad Haddin a lot when I was playing for India and he is someone who is a hardcore competitor. He will definitely give 100% or probably more than 100% as the assistant coach. I am looking forward to working with both Trevor and Brad."