Missing Warner’s ammo: Sunrisers Hyderabad began this season on a resounding note, winning their first three games. Two of them were in convincing fashion, yet their campaign threatens to unravel into one of anguish. While much can’t be read into successive defeats in a T20 league, there are reasons to believe that replicating their staggering consistency of the last two seasons is beyond them this term.
This much is clear: they are missing David Warner, his unbridled firepower upfront, the heady momentum, he injects to kill the contest off in the first 10 overs, the mere force of his personality. The two other international luminaries — Kane Williamson and Shikhar Dhawan — are no doubt high-quality batsmen, capable of defining matches. But neither can influence a match nor demoralise a bowler as emphatically or routinely as Warner.
They missed him dearly in their pursuit of hunting down Chennai Super Kings’ 182, a competent but not an insurmountable tally. After all, they almost surpassed it, fell short by a mere four runs, but it took a stunning 84 off 51 by Williamson, and a breezy 45 off 27 by Yusuf Pathan for them to keep the match within their grasp till the last delivery. It can’t recur on a routine basis.
You can empathise with them, as Warner’s defection was unanticipated, but his absence has left them horribly short of ammo in Powerplays. They thought Wriddhiman Saha could inherit the mantle, he has in the past scored breathtakingly fast at the top of the order. But he couldn’t quite tee off like he had in the KKR robes. Worryingly for them, there aren’t too many straightforward solutions either. Ricky Bhui, who opened Sunday in place injured Dhawan, is not the answer; Pathan could be an afterthought. Coach Tom Moody and skipper Williamson are not radical enough to experiment with someone like Carlos Brathwaite.
But unless they manufacture a solution, or half a solution, even chaseable targets would turn out to be less chaseable. And while they have all the other requisites to make a champion side, the singular deficiency could stalk them as the season assumes a more serious hue.
Chahar’s long-form tricks: It was perfect text-book deception. The outswinger first-up, the inswinger next and another outswinger, sucking a thick edge of Ricky Bhui’s stretched willow. All were pitched up, a foot outside the off-stump, in the fourth-fifth stump channel. But for the splitting noise and the fluorescent yellow shirts that swarmed Deepak Chahar, the bowler, it seemed like the opening over of a first-class match than a flood-lit T20 mash-up.
Chahar, long ridiculed for his lack of pace and condition-reliance, weaves long-form bowling mechanics into IPL, which though is not as easy to pull off as it sounds, and which is not entirely fool-proof — then in T20s, which brand of bowling is utterly fool-proof? Perhaps his success — which to go by this IPL, wherein he has nicked six wickets in four matches, is not a one-off instance —lies in the supreme awareness of his limitation than the bluster of his strengths.
So he doesn’t attempt anything that’s not beyond him, that he doesn’t command full control over. Not for him the new-age arcanery of knuckle balls, slow bouncers, heck not even cutters or yorkers. It’s plain old-fashioned swing-and-seam bowling, plus a conventional back-of-the-hand slower ball, almost apologetically stating and defending a case for his brand of bowling in T20s.
Sample his next dismissal. Manish Pandey, a far more accomplished batsman than Bhui. Pandey was fresh at the crease, his feet movement yet in sync. So Chahar shortened his length a trifle on fifth stump, tempting him into slashing at the ball. But the late away swing did him in, and if you’d notice, Pandey’s feet were horribly static. His third wicket, Deepak Hooda, came off a slower ball, which he doesn’t over-use.
Dhoni, too, uses him sharply, exhausting his quota in the first 10 overs, as it was against Sunrisers, or never using him after 10 overs. In fact, all 11 overs he had bowled were upfront, and except an over each against Chris Gayle and Sunil Narine, he was hardly brutalised.
More such sparkling exhibitions could rejuvenate his career, which, since his mind-boggling first-class debut seven years ago, when he slit through — who else — Hyderabad on Ranji debut with figures of 7.3-2-10-8, has slow-burned, laid low by a slew of untimely injuries.
Rayudu’s forget-me-not memo: For much of his early career, Ambati Rayudu wrestled with the burden of expectation. The rest of his career, he had been fighting anonymity. He had performed fairly well, internationally as well as in IPL, over the years, has all the eye-catchy strokes in his repertoire, is a utility-keeper, but for some reason he seldom walks away with the plaudits he deserves or gets fan-mobbed. Even after CSK shipped him in for Rs 2.2 crore, he didn’t seem like an automatic pick. Typically, his 39 and 49, against KKR and RR, went unnoticed. Maybe, the 79 off 37, a knock that seamlessly blended classicism and improvisation, would get him noticed.