IPL: Can Pat Cummins make the Orange Army shine bright again?

Sunrisers Hyderabad, the 2016 champions, had been badly hit by frequent changes of captaincy and personnel

Sunrisers Hyderabad, led by Pat Cummins, gear up for IPL opener with revamped squad (photo: ICC)
Sunrisers Hyderabad, led by Pat Cummins, gear up for IPL opener with revamped squad (photo: ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It will be a crown of thorns for Pat Cummins, Australia’s all-conquering captain in recent times, when he leads out Sunrisers Hyderabad in their IPL lung opener against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens next Saturday (23 March). Expectations will be really high of the 2016 champions this time as they had been on a freefall for the last three seasons.

For a team which used to pride on their consistency despite lying low on the radar, the Orange Army often made news for the wrong reasons recently – be it the unceremonious sacking of their talismanic captain David Warner, chopping and changing of captains and support staff among other things. After having made amends in the last auction by breaking the bank for Cummins, the second highest buy in Dubai at an exorbitant Rs 20.50 crores, and acquiring Travis Head –Player of the Final in the 50-overs World Cup - they will want to reboot their campaign in the new season.

They wear a much more well-rounded look compared to last few years with the batting having more muscle with Head and Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order to be followed by the experienced Rahul Tripathi, Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen and allrounder Abdul Samad. New Zealander Glenn Phillips can do some serious damage in the lower order, though his place in the playing XI may not be a certainty given the limitation on number of overseas players.

Over the years, Sunrisers had acquired a reputation of defending their smaller totals well – thanks largely to a canny Bhubaneshwar Kumar and leg spinner Rashid Khan. It was heartening to learn that ‘Bhuvi’ had been in a resurgent form in domestic cricket and their fast bowling unit will be one of the best on paper with Cummins in a leader’s role alongwith Kumar, South African allrounder Marco Jansen, the much talked about Umran Malik and left-arm N. Natarajan on stand bye.

A number of them are capable of bowling faster than 145 kmph, something which they will put to use on little helpful conditions along with the two-bouncer rule. The spin department had been sorely missing the Rashid magic, but the arrival of Sri Lankan Wanindu Hasaranga can offset for that. It’s also time for Washington Sundar, who has been in and out of injuries in recent years, to do justice to his reputation as the off spinner allarounder if he wants to press claims for a berth in the T20 World Cup.

A big plus for Sunrisers this season is also the presence of multiple leaders in their line-up. Cummins has been handed the armband ahead of the tournament alright, but he can pick the brains of previous incumbent Aiden Markram. The South African had been through the grind himself last year and proved his captaincy skills in the recently concluded SA20 when he led SRH’s sister franchise Sunrisers Eastern Cape to the trophy. Not to forget Hasaranga also, now the captain of Sri Lanka’s T20 team.

Incidentally, Cummins – who has had a previous stint with Kolkata Knight Riders – has not been very successful in stemming the flow of runs but has the knack of picking up wickets. The smiling assassin can also play a meaningful role lower down the order with the bat in times of need, as he has done in bigger occasions, and can be considered as an allrounder for all practical purposes.

Owners: Sun TV Network

Captain: Pat Cummins

Coach: Daniel Vettori

Best finish: 2016

Abdul Samad, Abhishek Sharma, Aiden Markram (c), Marco Jansen, Rahul Tripathi, Washington Sundar, Glenn Phillips, Sanvir Singh, Heinrich Klaasen, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mayank Agarwal, T. Natarajan, Anmolpreet Singh, Mayank Markande, Upendra Singh Yadav, Umran Malik, Nitish Kumar Reddy, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Shahbaz Ahmed , Travis Head, Wanindu Hasaranga, Pat Cummins, Jaydev Unadkat, Akash Singh, Jhathavedh Subramanyan.

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