Sunrisers Hyderabad
Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Kane Williamson and Khaleel Ahmed celebrate the wicket of Prithvi Shaw of Delhi Capitals in the IPL match at the Dubai International Stadium on September 22, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Two points from eight games translate into one win and seven losses. That’s the record of the Sunrisers Hyderabad in Season 14 of the Indian Premier League. The stats are certainly not good augury. But Hyderabad have turned around floundering campaigns in the past. So it’s not easy to write them off.

Rewind to Season 13 in the UAE. Hyderabad returned a mixed bag of results in the first half of the league. They even lost matches from winning positions: the loss against the Royal Challengers Bangalore rankled the most. There were setbacks too. Injuries to their bowling spearhead Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Mitchell Marsh were body blows.

How Warner did it last year

In spite of all that, Hyderabad qualified for the knockout stage. Captain David Warner marshalled his relatively thin resources adroitly to conjure enough wins and points to make the top four. Marsh’s replacement Jason Holder weighed in well; T. Natarajan struck the form of his life with the left-arm seamer claiming the mantle of the yorker king. Warner and a fit-again Kane Williamson made up for the patchy displays of Jonny Bairstow, and Wriddhiman Saha, who took over the wicketkeeping role, produced some scintillating knocks.

That was last year. Can Hyderabad recreate the magic? Not likely, given the evidence on show. Warner’s form had dipped; he was stripped of the captaincy and was even dropped. Williamson is a capable leader, who steered New Zealand to the World Test Championship title. He had helmed Hyderabad’s fine performance in 2018 when they finished runners up behind the Chennai Super Kings. But does he have the team to mount a similar challenge?

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The odds are stacked against Hyderabad. The first leg of IPL 2021 in India has been a disaster for them. Six losses in seven games would have had a demoralising effect. And losing a leader in the middle of a battle can affect the troops’ performance.

The biggest blow has been the absence of Bairstow, a standout performer who shouldered much of the batting burden. Williamson will miss his flying starts that pushed rivals on the backfoot.

Form and fitness worries

One positive is the return of Bhuvaneshwar, but that’s negated by the dip in the form of Sandeep Sharma, who played a good hand in Hyderabad’s qualification last year. There are more worries. Natarajan, who missed the first half of the season through injury, returned to fitness only to be laid low by COVID-19. His close contact Vijay Shankar, a handy player, too is placed in isolation.

Williamson doesn’t have all his best players to turn around the fortunes. And the best are struggling for form and fitness. A Rashid Khan is not enough to win matches. So playoff spot for Hyderabad looks a mirage.