Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Punjab Kings - two teams standing on opposite sides of the spectrum. We have got someone who is yet to win a match this season going up against a franchise who is yet to taste defeat.
Hyderabad were supposed to be one of the favourites but the Orange Army have hardly got anything right. Meanwhile, we all know about Punjab’s history, but Shikhar Dhawan and Co. are quickly starting to become the tournament's dark horse. In fact, this is only the third time they have won their first two games of the season.
Dhawan has led from the front in both these encounters, allowing the likes of Prabhsimran Singh, Bhanuka Rajapaksa and Jitesh Sharma to play their natural game. Meanwhile, Arshdeep Singh and Nathan Ellis have taken care of the pace department despite Sam Curran’s dodgy bowling form.
Then you have SRH, who are struggling even to put the right XI on the field. They have been all over the place with their team selection despite the arrival of their skipper Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and Marco Jansen. We know it’s only been two games but Hyderabad have the worst batting average (15.8) and scoring rate (6.3) so far in this competition.
(All stats till April 7, 2023)
Things to watch out forWashington Sundar's substandard form
Washington Sundar’s IPL numbers are very mediocre. A batting average of 13.96 at a strike rate of 112.79 and a bowling average of 34.82 with a balls/wicket of 28.55 - those are not the numbers you would associate with a player who has played all three formats for India. The offspinner is supposed to be economical but of late he has been poor on that front as well.
Amongst spinners who have bowled at least 40 overs in the IPL since 2021, Washington not only has the second-worst average (44.4) but also has the third-worst economy rate (8.3) and balls/wicket (32). Washington had an economy of 6.2 in the powerplay in IPL 2019-20 but even that has gone up to 9 since 2021. On top of that, he is the only left-hander in SRH’s middle-order and has done little with the bat either, to command a place in the XI.
Sunrisers need him to get back to his best.
How can you not play Klaasen?
Against Lucknow on Friday, Hyderabad started with only three overseas players, meaning they didn’t have a designated wicketkeeper. Hence, Anmolpreet Singh, who is an occasional wicketkeeper, was picked ahead of Abhishek Sharma. We understand SRH wanted to keep their options open regarding getting an impact sub, but how can you leave out someone who has been averaging 48.25 at an SR of 166.4 in T20s this year?
It would have still been okay if Hyderabad had persisted with Glenn Phillips over Heinrich Klaasen, but even that wasn’t the case. Lucknow turned out to be a paradise for spinners but Hyderabad decided to go without Klaasen, who has been averaging 62.5 against spin this year. The wicketkeeper-batter from South Africa has always been a fantastic batter of spin-bowling, and his presence will also take some pressure off newcomer Harry Brook.
Curran, Shahrukh need to step up
Punjab might have won both their games but it could have gone either way, as the seven and five-run margins suggest. As mentioned in the third paragraph, Punjab have delivered some stunning individual performances but there are still glaring issues in their team, starting with Curran and Shahrukh Khan’s form.
Curran, who was the 2022 T20 World Cup’s player of the tournament, hasn’t been at his best this year. The left-arm seamer has picked up only 10 wickets in 14 T20s at an economy of close to 9. In the first two encounters, Curran ended with figures of 1/38 (three overs) and 0/44 (four overs), but Arshdeep and Ellis have covered for him brilliantly. Although it has to be said, the 18.50 crore signing held his nerve superbly to bowl the Kings to victory in the final over against Rajasthan.
Curran’s lack of form might not have hurt Punjab but Shahrukh’s has. PBKS have operated at a scoring rate of 9.9 in the powerplay and 9.8 in the middle overs but that number comes down to 9.3 in the final five overs. They have the third-worst scoring rate in the death overs this season, only ahead of Delhi (7.4) and Hyderabad (8.4). Overall, an SR of 122.18 doesn’t do justice to Shahrukh’s potential.
The Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium has been conducive to fast bowling for a while now but Yuzvendra Chahal’s four-wicket haul earlier in the tournament has proved that there’s enough assistance for spinners as well. The key is still to fill your squad with seamers but a presence of a quality wristspinner could prove to be icing on the cake.
In the IPL since 2018, the batters here have scored runs at an average of 24.5 and a scoring rate of 8, while a wicket has fallen every 18.4 deliveries. The fast bowlers have a better average (25.3) and strike rate (18.7) but spinners have been more economical (7.5).
What’s interesting is that the toss has not been captain friendly. In 25 percent of the matches since 2018, teams winning the toss have lost the game, the worst among all venues.
Jitesh Sharma has been that intent merchant for Punjab in those middle overs since his debut last season. The wicketkeeper-batter has impressive numbers against all bowling types but has been slightly vulnerable against left-arm spin - 35 runs in 27 deliveries, three dismissals, and an SR of 129.6). With Washington and Adil Rashid not in great form, SRH could bring in a left-arm spinner - Mayank Dagar or Akeal Hosein.
It’s no secret that Hyderabad have been terrible in the spin department since the last edition. In this time frame, SRH spinners have the worst average (37.4) and economy rate (8.7) and the second-worst balls/wicket (25.8). They are neither containing runs nor picking up enough wickets, which is putting more pressure on the pace set-up.
Hyderabad need to get their team combination sorted. If they are batting first, they could have Abdul Samad in the XI and then replace someone in the second innings with either an Indian seamer or Mayank Markande. If they go with the latter, they can play Farooqi ahead of Rashid. Anmolpreet didn’t look comfortable behind the stumps and SRH would need a specialist wicketkeeper.
SRH - Mayank Agarwal, Abhishek Sharma, Rahul Tripathi, Aiden Markram (c), Harry Brook, Heinrich Klaasen (wk), Washington Sundar, Adil Rashid/Fazalhaq Farooqi, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan, Umran Malik.
Why fix something that isn’t broken? Punjab seem to have found the right combination and it’s highly unlikely that they would tinker with the winning combination. Bhanuka Rajapaksa was forced to retire after a severe blow to his elbow but the Sri Lankan but the X-rays have cleared him of any broken bones or fractures. However, if he is not match-ready, Punjab could give a debut to Matthew Short. Liam Livingstone is still not available.
PBKS - Shikhar Dhawan (c), Prabhsimran Singh, Bhanuka Rajapaksa (subject to fitness)/Matthew Short, Jitesh Sharma (wk), Shahrukh Khan, Sam Curran, Sikandar Raza, Nathan Ellis, Harpreet Brar, Rahul Chahar, Arshdeep Singh.