IPL 2023: Sunrisers Hyderabad look to fly high

A dynamic side, with bonafide T20 batters from 1-7, that has all the ingredients to make an impact this season.

CHENNAI:  For five years since 2016 — the season where David Warner led them to their maiden Indian Premier League title — Sunrisers Hyderabad were one of the most consistent teams in the tournament. The last couple of seasons, however, haven't been one to remember. A last-place finish followed by an eighth-place finish in 2022 meant they were in for an overhaul.

In the 2023 IPL auction, they did exactly that, going all out to spend Rs 35.7 crore, Rs 15.7 crore more than any other team, putting together a dynamic T20 side. They have also made Aiden Markram, who led the Sunrisers Eastern Cape team to the title in the inaugural SA20 league, captain. While they might miss Markram, who has South Africa commitments, in their opening game against Rajasthan Royals on Sunday, it is safe to say that SRH still have one of the strongest teams, at least on paper, this season.

For starters, from relying heavily on top-order for years, SRH went to depending on their middle-order in 2022. Their top three run-scorers were middle-order (No 3 to 5) bats, as they struggled to fit in a batter like Kane Williamson at the top.

This time, however, they have Mayank Agarwal at the top, Harry Brook and Heinrich Klaasen in the middle to give company to Markram, Rahul Tripathi and Abhishek Sharma. There is no room for an anchor in this top six, in fact, if required they could ask Sharma to play that role, with explosive hitting at the other end.

Agarwal is one of the few batters who have constantly spoken about impact rather than run accumulation. His IPL strike rate of 142.41 in the last three years is a testament to that.

But that is not all of it. His prolific spin-hitting aside, Agarwal’s run-scoring rate post-powerplay is what makes him stand out. In fact, that is what makes this SRH batting stand out. Agarwal’s middle-over IPL SR is 140.93 followed by Tripathi (136.15), and Markram (164.28) means there are no easy overs against this batting. Add Brook (184.61 middle-over T20 SR) and Klaasen (161.90) to this mix, they become dangerous against most T20 oppositions.

There is no dearth of all-round options either with Washington Sundar and Marco Jansen slotting themselves at No. 7 and 8. However, Washington is such an option that they could also move him up and down the order if need be based on match-ups. The TN all-rounder has shown what he is capable of with the bat whenever he has gotten a chance. And the lanky left-armer from South Africa could prove to be the X-factor, especially with the way SRH has formed their bowling attack.

Here's the first episode of Helmot's Weekly Wrap Up Assistant Coach, Simon Helmot gives us a recap of what the first week at the #Riser camp has been like, as we inch closer to our first match of the #IPL2023 season@SimonHelmot | #OrangeFireIdhi #OrangeArmy pic.twitter.com/k9RigqXFnl

— SunRisers Hyderabad (@SunRisers) March 26, 2023

An express pace option in Umran Malik, experienced campaigners in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and T Natarajan make it a complete pace attack on the paper, but they are susceptible to bad days. Malik took 22 wickets last year but operated at 9.03 runs per over, Natarajan had 18 with an economy of 9.44.

Kumar, their least expensive bowler (7.34), took 12 wickets. That their home ground, Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Uppal, Hyderabad, is not what it used to be — a middling 140-150 used to be enough in the past — and has seen a lot of high-scoring games means this season could be no different for their bowlers.

Perhaps, the one supposed weak link is their second spin option. They have Adil Rashid, but it might come down as a call between him and Jansen as the fourth overseas player, and some Indian options in Samarth Vyas and Mayank Markande or even the new recruit from Jammu and Kashmir Vivrant Singh.

What will be interesting to see is how they make the most of the impact player rule should they use it. One option is to go in with three overseas players and bring in Jansen or Rashid depending on what they are doing or the conditions.

More than anything else, it might all come down to data and the percentage options they use and how they use it. It is something that brought the franchise success in the SA20 league.

Roelof van der Merwe, the Dutch-South African cricketer who played for the Eastern Cape, literally said they "Moneyballed" it in a chat with IOL Sport, referring to the Hollywood movie based on Oakland Athletics baseball team’s statistics-based approach to form a competitive team.

Here in the IPL, they have spent big money to do the same, and they would have to have a really bad tournament to not finish in the top four.

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