Unsettled unit, confusing selection calls make it a season to forget for SRH

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Ashish Pant
May 21, 2023, 09:10 PM

Where they finished
Sunrisers Hyderabad came into IPL 2023 as one of the more balanced-looking teams, but things just didn’t fall into place for them. They lost their first two games and won the next two, but three losses on the bounce thereon caused their campaign to nosedive quickly, and it never looked up after that. This was the third straight season that SRH have failed to get past the league stage and the second time in three years that they have finished bottom. Position on table: Bottom of the ten-team pack, with eight points. Wins: Four. Losses: Ten.

The Good – Klaasen and Markande make a mark
In an otherwise bleak season, Heinrich Klaasen and Mayank Markande were the standout performers for SRH. Both players were given an extended run and they made it count. Markande manned the middle overs for SRH, picking up 11 of his 12 wickets in that phase, and was easily the team’s best spinner. He finished with an economy rate of 7.89, the second-best for his side (minimum 50 balls bowled) behind Mayank Dagar, and was the second-highest wicket-taker behind Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Klaasen almost single-handedly carried SRH’s batting this season. He packed a punch whenever he came out to bat and in every phase. Klaasen was SRH’s leading run-scorer by some distance and one of the few positives to come out of the team’s disappointing batting show this season.

The Bad – an unsettled unit
“He’s a player with the X-factor, bowls at 150kph, but I don’t really know what’s happening behind the scenes.” That was captain Aiden Markram’s reply on May 18 regarding Umran Malik’s prolonged absence from the playing XI, and it suggested that all wasn’t well in the SRH camp. It seemed so all through the season.

SRH failed to zero in on a settled unit, both on the batting and bowling fronts. They fielded 23 players in all – joint-most for any team – with very few getting a long run. And, it started right at the top. SRH used seven opening combinations, second only to Kolkata Knight Riders, with no pair getting more than four games.

Barring Klaasen, SRH did not have a single batter in the top 30 of the run-getters’ list and not one bowler managed to get into the top ten of the wicket-takers’ list either. Washington Sundar being ruled out with a hamstring injury midway through the season also threw a spanner in SRH’s works.

Another reason behind SRH’s weak season was their key batters not turning up. They splurged a total of INR 21.50 crore on Harry Brook and Mayank Agarwal, but both had mediocre seasons – really, just one innings of substance each. Brook, apart from the century against KKR did not cross 30 even once and scored three ducks. He was also benched for a couple of games. Agarwal crossed fifty just once this season – in the final league game – and averaged just 27.0 with a strike rate of 128.57. Both batters were constantly shuffled around in the batting order, which might not have helped.

In his first year as captain, Markram left a lot to be desired. But was he in charge? Some of the selection calls led to former SRH head coach Tom Moody saying that Markram might have had “very little say on selection”.

Top performer – Heinrich Klaasen
Klaasen stood head and shoulders above anyone in the team – his takedown of spin will remain one of the highlights of IPL 2023. Klaasen finished with 448 runs in 11 innings, striking at 177.07, with two fifties and a century. He struck at 191.30 against spin – the second-best strike rate for any batter who has faced a minimum of 50 balls this season – and was equally formidable against pace.

The Highlights
– With his 104 against RCB, Klaasen became the fourth SRH batter to score a century in the IPL behind David Warner (twice), Jonny Bairstow and Harry Brook.
– For all their batting frailties, SRH were one of only two teams to have two centurions this season.
– Against Rajasthan Royals, SRH successfully chased down a target in excess of 200 for the first time in the IPL. It was also the joint-third-highest chase in IPL history.
The 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) season has been a difficult one for the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH). Inconsistency in team selection, unsettled units and familiar problems with lack of quality batting, has all contributed to a season SRH would rather forget.

With the competition’s biggest stars on show across various teams, SRH have failed to capture the imagination of their own supporters. Their campaign has been damaging for their reputation, with the team finishing near the bottom of the league table in the eight-team competition.

This familiar lack of success has been disappointing for supporters, who have grown used to seeing their team competing in the playoffs over the past few years.

Among the issues facing SRH this year, their team selection has come under some criticism. From the season-opener, SRH’s squad makeup has been confusing and haphazard. With many players coming in and out of the side, there has been little time for consistent partnerships, or defensive strategies to be perfected.

Furthermore, their understrength batting line-up has struggled to build innings or capitalise on good starts. It has been difficult for the side to compete against rivals whose batting line-ups are overflowing with talent.

All in all, SRH’s 2021 IPL campaign has been one they’d rather forget. Questions will undoubtedly be asked of their selection process, and it remains to be seen if they can pick themselves up in time for next year’s competition. Until then, it looks set to be a long and hard summer for the Hyderabad-based team.

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