Sunrisers Hyderabad had the tournament’s best batsman and best bowler in David Warner and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. They were already defending champions. They also had among the best performances in the 2017 auction, with punts on Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi proving spectacularly successful. Given that whole package, it seems strange that Hyderabad ended up as anything other than one of the two finalists, but luck had a part to play in first denying them a top-two finish in the league stage, and then them getting knocked out in the Eliminator to finish fourth.
Against the mercurial Kings XI Punjab, Hyderabad had scrapped their way to 159 for 6 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, their home fortress. Punjab lost their big names cheaply, but in Manan Vohra, they had their man for the moment. In T20 cricket, one player can take the game away from you on his day. That’s what Vohra seemed on course to do, until Bhuvneshwar stepped in. He had already got Hashim Amla and Glenn Maxwell, but he broke through Vohra too. Vohra fell five short of his century, Punjab fell five short of the target, and Bhuvneshwar had five wickets. In a crunch situation, Hyderabad’s champion had stepped up.
What did not work for them
The only area of weakness for Hyderabad was in their lower middle-order batting. Their bowling was top-notch, with Bhuvneshwar and Rashid the standouts, Nabi devastatingly economical whenever he got the chance, and Mohammed Siraj and Siddarth Kaul, among others, chipping in. Warner was magnificent at the top, while Shikhar Dhawan overcame a poor start to finish well, and Kane Williamson – when he got a go – was a revelation. But it did seem that too much depended on the top three or four in every match. That also probably led to Warner sometimes being more circumspect, since he couldn’t be certain of consistent power-hitting coming lower down the order.
It was a photo finish between Warner and Bhuvneshwar, but the former won out if only because he led really well too. Warner the batsman began IPL 2017 in good, but not great, touch. There were some innings where he seemed to pull through on sheer bloody-mindedness, but you always knew that the shackles would come off and an explosion was around the corner. It happened with the century against Kolkata Knight Riders, and for a while there, he looked like he could threaten Chris Gayle’s mark of 175 too. While captaining, he attacked judiciously with pace and spin, got his calls more often right than wrong in choosing which bowler to throw the ball to, and was an inspirational presence for the team.
With two standout stars, and several others who made important contributions throughout, there was no single individual who could be counted as a letdown, unless you were making a ruthlessly harsh examination. But Hyderabad might have a justifiable grouse against the elements. They were to face a demoralised Royal Challengers Bangalore two days after the team had been shot out for 49. It rained throughout and Hyderabad got only one point. If they had won, they would have finished on 18 points and in the top two of the league. In the Eliminator, the Bangalore rains meant Kolkata had to chase 48 in six overs. At any other ground, that amount of rain would have meant a washout and Hyderabad would have gone through. With less rain, they could have at least had a hope of defending 128 in 20 overs. But neither happened.
Highest run-getter: David Warner: 641 runs in 14 matches. Average: 58.27; Strike-rate: 141.81.
Highest wicket-taker: Bhuvneshwar Kumar: 26 wickets in 14 matches. Average: 14.19; Economy rate: 7.05.