<
>

Inexperienced middle order the weak link for Sunrisers Hyderabad

play
Can Mohammad Nabi or Fabian Allen step up as finishers? (4:52)

Deep Dasgupta, Aakash Chopra, and our in-house expect discuss Sunrisers' prospects (4:52)

Where they finished in 2019: Fourth. Sunrisers Hyderabad, the Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab had 12 points each at the end of the group stage, but a superior net run-rate saw the Sunrisers through to the Eliminator, where they lost to the Delhi Capitals.

Potential XI: David Warner (capt), Jonny Bairstow, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar, Abdul Samad, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Khaleel Ahmed

Batting: As always, the Sunrisers' batting will revolve around David Warner, who has topped 500 runs every season he has played for the franchise. Warner will open the innings with Jonny Bairstow - both were exceptional as an opening pair last year, their average stand being 79 in just eight overs.

The middle order, though, once again appears a bit shaky. In the absence of a proven anchor, Manish Pandey may have to bat at No. 4 instead of No. 3, with Vijay Shankar slotting in after him. For the No. 3 position, the Sunrisers may start with Wriddhiman Saha. Their other options are Priyam Garg, who was India's captain at the 2020 Under-19 World Cup, and Virat Singh, who scored 343 runs at 57.16 with a strike rate of 142.32 in the last Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Kane Williamson can also come in for Bairstow, with Saha opening the innings in that case.

Abdul Samad and Fabian Allen are in the side as finishers. Then there is Mohammad Nabi, who had a fantastic CPL both with bat and ball. With Warner and Rashid Khan taking up two overseas slots, the Sunrisers will have to leave Bairstow out if they want to fit both Allen and Nabi into their XI.

Bowling: Rashid is arguably the world's best T20 bowler. Even though teams have started playing out his four overs of late, he remains a wicket-taking option. His compatriot Nabi will have a bigger role to play this year given the slow nature of the UAE pitches. If a third spinner is required, the Sunrisers can turn to Shahbaz Nadeem.

Still, a lot will depend on how Bhuvneshwar Kumar fares. Kumar was the leading wicket-taker for the Sunrisers for four successive years, from 2014 to 2017. However, he has struggled with injuries in the past two years and last played a representative game in December 2019. His form in the tournament could be the difference between a top-four finish and a title win.

In the supporting cast, the Sunrisers have a left-arm seamer in Khaleel Ahmed, a swing bowler in Sandeep Sharma and a hit-the-deck bowler in Siddarth Kaul. They also have the option of playing the tall Australian pacer Billy Stanlake in place of one of the overseas players.

Young player to watch out for: The spotlight will be on the 18-year-old Abdul Samad. In India's last domestic season, the Jammu & Kashmir batsman was the most prolific six-hitter across formats (61 sixes). Moreover, he hit a six every 13 balls, the best rate among those with a minimum of 25 sixes. In March, just before India went into lockdown, Samad worked with Milap Mewada and Irfan Pathan to further sharpen his game and add shots like the uppercut to his repertoire. Apart from Samad, there is Priyam Garg who has a more all-round game. But it needs to be seen how many matches he gets.

Coaching staff: Trevor Bayliss (head coach), Brad Haddin (assistant coach), Muttiah Muralitharan (bowling coach), Biju George (fielding coach), VVS Laxman (mentor)