Lara’s theme not working for the Sunrisers

The batting failure of the side must be galling for the champion performer, even though the bowlers are doing a decent job

A disturbed Lara at the media conference after the loss (Photo: BCCI/Sportzpics)
A disturbed Lara at the media conference after the loss (Photo: BCCI/Sportzpics)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

This is the third straight season that the Sunrisers Hyderabad are on a downward spiral—and the patience of Brian Lara, batting maestro and head coach, is clearly wearing thin.

The Orange Army came extremely close to chasing down a par score of 171 at home on Thursday night, before they slumped to a five-run defeat to the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Now languishing at ninth spot with only six points from nine games, the 2016 champions are left with no realistic chance of making it to the playoffs. Here on out, they will be playing to improve their final position from eighth last season, at best. It's a comedown, after they emerged as one of the most consistent teams from their debut in the initial years, with five playoff appearances in the first seven seasons, including a title.

What must be even more galling for the ego of a champion performer like Lara is the batting failure of the side, even though the bowlers are doing a decent job. The Sunrisers management has assembled the most decorated line-up in IPL 2023 to look after the three departments—the West Indian as the overarching leader and batting mentor, Dale Steyn as the fast bowling coach and Muttiah Murlitharan to improve the nuances of their spin attack.

"[The bowlers] have put their hands up in nearly every single match. We just let them down with the bat," a visibly irritated Lara said to the media after the loss to the Knights. The loss of early wickets and the lack of a solid partnership, barring the one between South Africans Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen (70 off 47 balls), clearly hurt the Sunrisers' chase—prompting Lara to say that his boys lost the plot rather than the Knights winning.

It's that ‘"little bit upstairs" (read: cricket sense) that a frustrated Lara would ask from his batters, for they had assembled a good arsenal this season with the addition of Mayank Agarwal, Rahul Tripathi, the costly Harry Brook and the South African duo. An useful all-rounder, Markram as the new captain had been doing his best to shore up the middle order, but had lacked support when it mattered the most.

"We keep losing a couple of wickets in the power play. That always sets you back a bit," said Lara. "We asked Klaasen, who has been batting tremendously for us, to do all the hard work again. He's coming in at No.6 and we've got five quality players before him. It's always been a task, I wouldn't say uphill,’" said Lara.

"Obviously the batters will know that the responsibility of winning the game on such a good batting track lay in their hands," Lara added, "and we were unable to do it. I just believe that we have to place a little more importance on partnerships and understanding, a little bit of match awareness. It's all great to be aggressive and have all the intent. But you got to use a little bit upstairs to get the job done."

Lara was also at a loss to analyse the failure of Brook, who was dismissed for a duck for the second successive time and hasn't done much since his century against the Knights in their away game some time back.

The Sunrisers' collective batting failure under Lara's tutelage will surely raise questions about the efficacy of having such legends of the game at the helm of respective departments if the players cannot deliver. It may also raise a sense of déjà vu in the man about his own playing days when, for years, Lara had to shoulder the responsibility of a below-par batting order for the Caribbeans.

Unfortunately for him, Lara cannot walk in with a bat in hand this time around!

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