Sunrisers Hyderabad’s (SRH) run in IPL 2022 could be described as topsy-turvy — where they were world beaters one moment with five wins in a row, and the whipping boys in the other by losing as many on the bounce.
And in Kane Williamson’s second full season as captain, the ‘Orange Army’ did put up a much better display compared to their horrid run the previous season, in which they lost 11 out of 14 games and finished at the bottom of the eight-team table.
There were areas where they had vastly improved, especially in their middle order as well as in the seam-bowling department, and the team did click as a unit more than once — and when they did, they looked unstoppable.
And unlike the off-field drama surrounding ex-skipper David Warner and his removal from captaincy last year, there wasn’t really any such issue in the dressing room or between the management and the players this time around as the squad appeared a lot more settled with Williamson now the undisputed leader.
In the end however, an eighth-place finish in a 10-team table simply wasn’t going to be enough, neither for captain Williamson and his men nor for the franchise owners and its legion of fans, who had grown accustomed to watching their side make it to the playoffs on a consistent basis over the years.
As we look back at the 15th edition of the league, which came to a conclusion on Sunday with Gujarat Titans lifting their maiden title in front of their home crowd, we analyse the performances of all ten teams involved in this year’s expanded tournament.
Here’s a detailed look at SRH’s run in IPL 2022:
Malik and the pace cartel
The first of the two meetings between the Sunrisers and the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) was expected to be a fiercely-fought contest, with RCB’s star-studded batting line-up expected to provide the perfect challenge to the SRH’s pace battery.
What we got instead was the shortest match of the season, with Hyderabad putting up a bowling masterclass as they shot Bangalore out for a paltry 68, with the match itself lasting just 24 overs as they chased the target down with nine wickets and 12 overs to spare.
That performance perhaps highlighted Hyderabad’s biggest positive this season — their bowling unit led by the fiery Umran Malik — who had been the fastest bowler this season until Gujarat Titans’ Lockie Ferguson broke the all-time record in the final.
The Sunrisers management showed immense faith in Malik by including him in their retentions despite the J&K speedster playing just three games last season. And though the extra pace on offer meant that the ball travelled to the fence that much quicker, and he did cost the team valuable runs on certain days, there’s no doubt about the fact that Malik is perhaps the most exciting fast-bowling prospect in Indian cricket at the moment, especially in the manner in which he unsettled the opposition batters with his raw pace when on song.
Sunrisers were also benefited by the revival of Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s form this season with the senior seamer effective both in the powerplay as well as a death option, besides chipping in with the bat every now and then and also handling captaincy duties in Williamson’s absence. T Natarajan was also in good rhythm in phases, and former Mumbai Indians seamer Marco Jansen has been a decent addition to the squad as an overseas seam option.
Sharma, Tripathi and the middle order
Besides Malik, Bhuvi and the bowling unit, Sunrisers also greatly benefitted from Abhishek Sharma and Rahul Tripathi’s run as their opener and No 3 option respectively, especially when the skipper himself failed to get going more often than not.
Sharma (426) and Tripathi (413) finished as the highest run-scorers for the Sunrisers this season, though Tripathi ended with the more impressive average (37.55) and strike rate (158.23) of the two, and had three half-centuries to his name this season.
One of the cleanest hitters of the ball this season, Tripathi was especially impressive in his 37-ball 71 against his former franchise KKR, making a cakewalk of the 176-run chase. He also produced a 37-ball 58 in SRH’s second meeting with RCB this season, albeit in a losing cause with the second highest score being 21 and only two others entering double digits.
Also impressive this season were the overseas middle-order pairing of Aiden Markram and Nicholas Pooran, who collected 381 and 306 runs respectively with impressive averages (47.63 and 37.25 respectively).
Pooran stood out with his back-to-back 60s earlier this month with the West Indian keeper-batter fighting on even when the situation had become bleak, and keeping his team’s chances alive till the very end even if they would ultimately end up short.
Big question mark over Williamson
As far the biggest let down for the Sunrisers this season, look no further than the leader himself. And no, it wasn’t the burden of captaincy that did a number on him; Williamson in fact thrives as a batter even when tasked with leadership, both in international cricket as well as in the IPL. Williamson had led from the front in the 2018 season in David Warner’s absence, winning the Orange Cap with 735 runs to his name as SRH reached the final for a second time in three seasons.
Williamson, though, a shade of his 2018 self this time around after being elevated to captaincy once again, in a full-time capacity this time around with the franchise having parted ways with Davey Warner. The franchise desperately needed a solid replacement for Warner, who enjoyed a solid run with the Delhi Capitals this season, and Williamson decided to raise his hand for the same.
While RCB superstar Virat Kohli copped a fair amount of flak for a poor run for a majority of the season, one could argue that Williamson was perhaps an even bigger let down even if the Sunrisers captain did not have the spotlight on him as much as Kohli did.
Regardless, scoring just 216 runs in 13 outings at an average less than 20 (19.64) and a strike rate below the 100-mark (93.50) will hurt the team’s fortunes big time, especially when you’re walking out to open the innings. Williamson simply wasn’t able to take the attack to the opposition more often than not, and his uncertainty at the crease did impede the Sunrisers’ scoring rate.
Worse, the team management did not even try to make amends by getting the in-form Tripathi to open and pushing Williamson down a slot or two instead. And by the time Williamson was done with the opener’s role, it was already too late for the franchise.
Lack of a quality spinner
Rashid Khan is one of the world’s most exciting cricketers in the white-ball formats at the moment, and the Afghan spin-bowling all-rounder is very much at the peak of his powers right now, as was evident in his performances for Gujarat Titans this season.
One would therefore wonder the logic behind releasing an asset such as Khan, who would bowl a quality spell in the grand finale on Sunday and eventually win his maiden title with the Hardik Pandya-led side. That Sunrisers missed Rashid’s services dearly would be an understatement.
There’s no doubt Washington Sundar is a talented off-spinner who can offer value to franchises with his ability to bowl in the powerplay and also chip in with valuable contributions with the bat, as was evident in his performances for RCB in past seasons.
But with the Tamil Nadu all-rounder ultimately could not make much of an impact this season as he struggled with fitness issues and injuries, leaving the Sunrisers without an effective frontline spin option and leading to an over-reliance on their pace department.
The path ahead
Disappointing as it may have been for SRH fans this season, it is by no means all doom and gloom for the Orange Army heading into the next season.
Malik, who was adjudged the ‘Emerging Player of the Season’, certainly can have an impact on the Sunrisers as Jasprit Bumrah did for the Mumbai Indians since breaking into the side in 2013. Malik was impressive enough in his first full season with the Sunrisers to earn a spot in the India squad for the upcoming South Africa T20Is, and could be even more destructive next year provided he stays focussed under Dale Steyn’s able mentorship.
And one wonders how far the Sunrisers could’ve gone had Williamson found his old touch, and the team management will certainly hope their captain regains his form in the 2023 edition. That said, his days as an opening batter appear done, with Priyam Garg filling in as Sharma’s opening partner towards the fag end of the season, and the franchise will have to rethink about his batting position going forward.
And last, but not the least, getting a quality spinner, preferably an Indian, should be their top priority in next year’s auction. The 2022 season belonged to the spinners with Yuzvendra Chahal and Wanindu Hasaranga occupying the top two slots in the bowling charts and the likes of Rashid and Ravichandran Ashwin also making an impact, and the Sunrisers will be eager to plug that particular gap.
There sure was an improvement for the Sunrisers this time around, with the side appearing favourites for the playoffs at one stage with five wins in seven outings before the eventual implosion.
There sure is enough quality in the ranks for them to add another trophy to their cabinet in the coming year. A couple of personnel changes, coupled with getting the belief back in the side could be the path to achieving that dream.
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