The reigning champions will come into the tenth edition of the Indian Premier League with a solid-looking squad who’d love nothing more than to build on their largely unexpected triumph last year.
Can David Warner lead his side to back-to-back IPL titles or will the Sunrisers wobbly-looking top order hamstring them this year? An excellent auction saw them strengthen their side in the off season, although the form of some senior players will worry Tom Moody.
The Sunrisers enjoyed a magnificent auction bringing in a wealth of established talent with the likes of Chris Jordan and Ben Laughlin joining the side. They also roped in a sprinkling of associate flavour in the form of Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, both of whom have been playing magnificently well for Afghanistan in recent years.
The biggest concern for Tom Moody coming into this tournament has been the form of his two stars from last season: Warner and Shikhar Dhawan. The Australian comes into this tournament off the back of an uncharacteristically poor tour of India which saw manage a single half-century in 10 innings.
Dhawan has been dropped from the Indian side in all formats and hasn’t looked like winning his place back if domestic List A and T20 performances are anything to go by. He’ll be desperate to replicate last season’s form which saw him plunder 501 runs at an average of 38.53. A good tournament could see him force his way back into the Indian squad for the Champions Trophy.
Having said that, if either one of the two battles for form, Kane Williamson will be all too ready to step up and possibly open the batting. Top and middle order strength is available with the likes of Yuvraj Singh and Moises Henriques who are enjoying excellent returns to form.
While there are a couple of question marks around some of the big name batsmen, the Sunrisers’ bowling attack looks awfully solid. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mustafizur Rahman managed 40 wickets between them last season. Warner can also toss the ball to the immensely experienced Ashish Nehra.
One to Watch: Rashid Khan
Whether or not his INR 4 crore ($597,000) price tag (a record for an associate player in the IPL) will weigh down the boy from Nangarhar in Eastern Afghanistan remains to be seen. Not a prodigious turner of the ball, he’ll look to make use of his googly as well as pace through the air to beat batsmen. If his recent performances against Ireland – across all formats – are anything to go on, the 18-year-old could well set this competition alight.
Even with their success last season, I don’t see them making the play-offs this time around. Neither Dhawan nor Warner are in any kind of form and are unlikely to carry the side through the tournament this time around. If they’re not getting the runs, it leaves massive pressure on Yuvraj and Henriques to get the runs.