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Sunrisers Hyderabad’s bowling attack has been one of the success stories of IPL 2013. Powered by Dale Steyn and revved on byAmit Mishra, they have helped the team win five of their first seven matches. Batting, however, has been found wanting, with a solitary 150-plus score to show.
As they gear up for a tough away game, against the Chennai Super Kings, Sunrisers have to lift their batting bar to a significant extent. The timing, hence, is perfect for Shikhar Dhawan to enter.
The Delhi batsman who scored a mindboggling 187 on Test debut against Australia, has recovered from his hand injury and will take the field against CSK at the Chepauk, confirmed SRH team mentor, Krishnamachari Srikkanth.
“The good news is that Shikhar Dhawan is back into action and he will be playing his first game of this season tomorrow,” Srikkanth said. “That should be a great boost to our batting. We have been a bit behind in our batting but with Dhawan in, we will be reasonably well sorted out.”
While admitting the team’s batting woes, the former India captain reasoned it with the fact that the side is packed with young Indian domestic players. Naming a few fringe players who have delivered for SRH so far, Srikkanth said the franchise’s aim is to promote young blood.
“We have to understand that it is a team that consists of a lot of youngsters and new faces. In the (2013 IPL Player) auction our mindset was to pick the team for the future and promote the youngsters. It has worked so far.
“Look at Hanuma Vihari, an unknown candidate who has already won two man-of-the-match awards. We also have the likes of Ashish Reddy who comes and wins matches in the end, and Akshath Reddy who has done well in a couple of games as well.”
A flamboyant opening batsman in his own time, Srikkanth was particularly open in his admiration for the 20-year-old South African opener, Quinton de Kock. In the team replacing Kumar Sangakkara, the wicketkeeper-batsman scored 2 and 0 in the two matched he’s played so far. But the team mentor made it clear that the management will give him enough chances to fail.
“He will continue to play,” Srikkanth said. “de Kock is a 20-year-old boy who had a brilliant season in South Africa. You’ve got to give him enough time. He’s played just two games and in the last game he got a ball that literally rolled over on the ground. To say that he hasn’t performed well after just two games is very unfair. I think Quinton de Kock is a swashbuckling opening batsman and we know he will come good.”
While the batting as a unit hasn’t clicked so far, it is not a big cause of concern for Srikkanth as long as the team is winning. “As of now we’re very happy with what has happened. We may not have got big runs but we have won five matches. At the end of the day it’s the number of matches that you’re winning is what matters,” he said.
For Srikkanth, the most significant factor in SRH’s fine form and as a team is their never-give-up attitude. He recalled the team’s 11-run win over the Pune Warriors India, defending a low 119.
“The biggest positive for us is the knowledge that we can successfully defend even a small total of 119. That fighting spirit in the team is the biggest plus. We haven’t given away a single match for lack of fight. We don’t give up.”
After a little fumble in the beginning with two home losses, the Chennai Super Kings have brought their IPL 2013 campaign back on track with three wins on the bounce. Now CSK aim to gain a significant leverage of points as they prepare to take on the inspired Sunrisers Hyderabad at home on Thursday.
“We have been playing well, especially in the last game (chasing down 185 against RR),” said CSK’s coach Stephen Fleming on the eve of the match. “We want to go to the top of the table and we know that by winning this game we will get back there and increase the gap in points between us the other teams.”
While the wins have been coming, there are areas of concern for the Super Kings to address. Fleming admitted that one of them is death bowling.
“Bowling at the death is a very tough skill to master as there are some big hitters batting then who can put even the good balls away. We do want to get better at that and in fact, at our bowling performance on the whole,” he said.
With the pacers going for runs in the final overs, a case arises for off-spinner, R Ashwin, one of CSK’s most consistent performers and disciplined bowlers to bowl an over in the end. Fleming, however, said he would rather prefer the pacers doing their job in the power-play and end overs so that Ashwin can be used as an attacking option.
“Ashwin is the go-to guy for the captain and he’s proven time and time again that he’s the guy to get the breakthrough. I would love him to bowl in the middle and pick wickets so the onus goes on our opening bowlers.
“I think we’ve leaked too many runs in the first six overs consistently over the tournament and so Ashwin has had to come in a bit earlier. But the ideal formula would be for him to come and build after the pacers have got early wickets. That allows Ashwin to attack. If we bring him on to defend the runs, we won’t be able to get as much out of him,” the coach explained.
Another concern for CSK is the lack of runs from Murali Vijay’s bat. But Fleming said the opener is not in bad shape and will be persisted with. “Around the same time in the tournament last year we dropped Vijay as he was not doing too well. But this time he is doing all the right things. It’s just not happening out there in the middle. So, this season we will back him for a while longer. We know that when he comes good, he’s real good,” Fleming said.
Acknowledging the few shortcomings of the team, the CSK coach said the important thing is one department putting their hands up when the other fails. In the end it’s about ending up on the winning side.
“We’ve had games where the bowlers have done well and those where the batsmen have; we haven’t put in a complete performance yet. “There’s always something to be worried about but if we win and get past the line especially in tight games, that’s more important for me. It’s about showing character rather than being in form all the time. It’s too much to ask off your team to be at its best in every game. If we do enough to win games and get through to the final, that will be great,” Fleming said.