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As they prepared to take on Kings XI Punjab at Mohali, Sunrisers’ mentor, VVS Laxman maintained that their bowling attack is still capable of invoking fear among the opposition.
“You hurt when you lose a game like that (loss to CSK by 77 runs) and we did too. We were really disappointed to lose so heavily against CSK. But it’s important to learn and move forward,” Laxman said. “But still, whichever team we play against, knows the strength of our bowling and respect our attack.”
While, barring that last aberration, SRH’s bowling has been pretty settled, their real concern right though the tournament has been the lack of big scores from their batsmen. Admitting that the team depends a lot on Shikhar Dhawan, Laxman urged senior batsmen like Kumar Sangakkaraand Cameron White to get among some runs at this, the crucial last phase of the league stage.
“There’s no doubt that Shikhar is our premier batsman, given the form and the confidence he has,” Laxman said. “In saying that, we have other batsmen who are talented and have done well. Shikhar wasn’t there for the first few games and a lot of youngsters like Hanuma Vihari, Akshath Reddy did well.
“But we would love to do much better as a batting unit and especially for our experienced batsmen like Sangakkara and White to show some form, which they haven’t so far. The remaining five league games are very important in terms of the tournament and if they get some runs we will be able to post huge totals,” the Indian batting legend said.
Like most teams in the tournament, the SRH have been more formidable at home than away. Five of their seven wins have come in Hyderabad. Laxman said most of the five away losses were close games and that the defeats weren’t for the lack of skill or effort.
“We’ve lost some close games away. We won two good ones in Pune and Delhi. In Chennai (MS) Dhoni played that fantastic knock and took the game away from us. In Jaipur it was Shane Watson who did so. In Bangalore we were outdone by Virat’s (Kohli) innings. Besides the individual brilliance, we were in control of the game. So, overall we’re quite pleased with the way we have traveled and we haven’t underperformed as such. The exceptions were the game in Kolkata where we didn’t play to our potential,’ he said.
Although Laxman is with SRH as the team mentor, the temptation of picking the brain of one of the greatest Indian batsmen would be irresistible for the youngsters in the camp. Laxman said he does talk to the batsmen in terms of their game but doesn’t believe in forcing his views on them.
“It’s been very exciting working with this group. The current crops of players are very receptive to suggestions. Right since my playing days as a senior member I have always had discussions with the young batsmen in the team.
“In IPL it’s more about talking to them about the mental aspect of the game rather than the technical stuff. A lot of the talk is about how to approach and play in a certain situation. It’s not about forcing your ideas on the players but having healthy discussions.
If those talks help them find a solution to any of their problems, it’s great,” he said. The recently retired Indian batsman had some fine words to say about his fellow Hyderabadi and one of the finds of this IPL, Hanuma Vihari.
“The most important quality for a young player to have is how quickly he learns, and Vihari is very good in that respect. Prior to this IPL he didn’t have much T20 experience but from the first game till now, he has improved a lot. His strengths are his temperament and his basic technique. Once you have these qualities you can succeed in any format.
The IPL is a good learning phase for Vihari and I’m sure he will lap it up to improve his game,” Laxman said.
As the race for the IPL 2013 Play-Offs heats up, theMumbai Indianswill be hoping to secure their passage into the next phase by overcoming Pune Warriors India this Saturday.
While the Expressway rivals have had markedly different fortunes this season, MI coach, John Wright, insisted that his team cannot not afford to take PWI lightly.
Wright also emphasised the fact that there are no easy opponents in the IPL and that a bottom-placed team like PWI could also prove quite a handful.
With the tournament getting into the business end, the MI coach said that the team needs to carry forth their exceptional form at home to away games in their bid to get to a comfortable position as far as the Play-Offs are concerned.
Here are excerpts of John Wright’s pre-game presser in Pune:
On the race for the top two spots getting stiffer
We are three-quarters of the way through the tournament. There is still a lot of cricket to play. We have got four matches in a short period of time. And for us, we got a good last week. We have just got to carry that through away from home to play well here. And let us see what happens.
On PWI as opponents
Well, I don’t think there are any easy teams in this competition and some of our games proved that. We know that if you want to do well through the length of this tournament, you have got to play well. We want to get two points out of this game. We want to play well in these conditions. That will help us. I think it is important to respect every team you play against in this competition. If you don’t, it can lead to big trouble. So, let us see, if we start well, either with the bat or ball that will help us.
On his experience as a T20 coach
It is different. I have been enormously impressed with the league as a competitive league. As I said, there are no easy teams and no easy games; there are eight other such teams. We had to fight real hard to get where we are, and we are still going into the last week with no assurances, unless we win games. So there is always pressure for everyone. I have been really impressed with the commitment of the sides and the players. IPL is a tough league. It looks like the nearest thing that cricket has to some of the big football leagues.
On changes in coaching style for this format
I have had to learn. It is different because you don’t know the players you are working with and then get them together in a very short period of time. We have tried doing things that are simple. We have tried giving the players an environment where they can express themselves on the field and keep it really simple. We know that we have got players to win matches and it is just a matter of bonding the team. And if you look at the people that I work with, I have got Ricky (Ponting), I have got Anil (Kumble). We have got a good support crew. We have got Jonty, Robin Singh, who have enormous experience in this league.
On adjusting to conditions in Pune
We have the afternoon game on Saturday, so the wicket is going to be different. We have got some problems to solve. We have been very strong in Mumbai, but these are different conditions, and if we can put it together for Saturday, it will be good for our confidence leading into next week and thereafter.
On experimenting with the line-up
We try and pick our best team. We are not at that stage where we can pick different combinations. The only combination we can look at is to try and get the right combination for the next game.
On Sachin going strong post 40
Well, I think he is past that problematic age of 39 (laughs). Life begins at 40. We were really please with the way he played in the last game – not necessarily the runs he got, but the way he played was good for us. And I think that will be really helpful on slow-wicket conditions.