Where they finished in 2020

After just three wins in their first nine games, the Sunrisers Hyderabad bounced back to finish third on the points table. In the Eliminator, they beat the Royal Challengers Bangalore but lost to the Delhi Capitals in Qualifier 2.

Potential XI

1 David Warner (capt), 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Kane Williamson, 5 Vijay Shankar, 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Abdul Samad, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar, 10 Sandeep Sharma, 11 T Natarajan

Batting

For the last couple of years, the dilemma for the Sunrisers has been which of Jonny Bairstow and Kane Williamson to leave out from their playing XI. In the second half of the previous season, they found their best combination with Wriddhiman Saha replacing Bairstow at the top, Williamson slotting in at No. 4 and Jason Holder shoring up both batting and bowling.

This time, the presence of a fit Bhuvneshwar Kumar and new recruit Kedar Jadhav means the Sunrisers may no longer need Holder's all-round skills. That opens up an overseas slot, allowing them to play both Williamson and Bairstow.

While Saha has exceptional numbers in the powerplay, Bairstow is simply much better across different phases of the innings. Moreover, Warner and Bairstow's opening pair is among the best in the IPL. On average, they give a start of around 60 in 6.3 overs.

Mitchell Marsh's late decision to pull out of the tournament shouldn't hurt the Sunrisers much. In fact, it has allowed them to rope in Jason Roy, a perfect replacement for Warner should his groin injury worsen. The lower middle order, though, can still give them some headaches despite Jadhav's inclusion.

Bowling

Bowling has always been the Sunrisers' stronger suit. Last season, they were hampered by Kumar's injury, but his return - not only on the field but also to form - should please them. In the recently concluded T20I and ODI series against England, Kumar was by far India's most economical bowler apart from picking up crucial wickets.

Kumar should bowl in tandem with Sandeep Sharma in the powerplay and with T Natarajan at the death. Rashid Khan, meanwhile, showed in IPL 2020 that his wicket-taking powers haven't waned. But if the Sunrisers want to include both Bairstow and Williamson in the XI, Vijay Shankar, Jadhav and Abdul Samad will have to bowl at least four overs between them. Else, they might have to consider playing Mohammad Nabi or Holder in place of either Bairstow or Williamson.

The Sunrisers also recruited Mujeeb Ur Rahman at the last auction. And while they are scheduled to play five games on the slow Chepauk pitches, Mujeeb more like a backup for Khan as squeezing both of them in the first XI would weaken the batting.

Young player to watch out for

Eyes will once again be on Abdul Samad. Samad, 19, was picked by the Sunrisers at the 2019 auction for his six-hitting skills. In the last IPL, his strike rate of 170.76 was the fifth-highest among those with at least 100 runs in the tournament. He was also the top scorer for Jammu and Kashmir in the 2020-21 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, tallying 140 runs in four innings at an average of 46.66 and a strike rate of 148.93. If he can nail his role of a finisher, the Sunrises will have all their bases covered.

Coaching staff

Tom Moody (director of cricket), Trevor Bayliss (head coach), Brad Haddin (assistant coach), Muttiah Muralitharan (bowling coach), Biju George (fielding coach) and VVS Laxman (mentor)

Poll

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo