Sunrisers Hyderabad will be led by David Warner. (SRH)

Q: Can Warner’s men rise again?
A: If their top order can be prolific and consistent in this high-pressure tournament played during an unprecedented situation, their bowling is strong enough to challenge for their second IPL title.

What can work for them
As usual, Sunrisers enter the tournament with a diverse and potent bowling attack. Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Sandeep Sharma, Siddarth Kaul and Khaleel Ahmed have been in the set-up for some time now and delivered on several occasions. If they need pace and bounce on any given day, Billy Stanlake is the man for them.

In Rashid Khan, they have arguably the best spinner in the format. Shahbaz Nadeem is an experienced and crafty operator who is often difficult to get away. They also have in their ranks Mohammad Nabi, who rarely disappoints whenever given a chance.

Skipper David Warner has the knack of leading from the front and is a perennial Orange Cap holder. His inspiration and enthusiasm, allied with the calmness of Kane Williamson, can work in Sunrisers’ favour.

Where they can falter

They have often looked top heavy – with the trio of Warner, Jonny Bairstow and Williamson lacking adequate support lower down the order. Manish Pandey is a proven performer in the middle order, but Vijay Shankar, Mitchell Marsh and Wriddhiman Saha may fall short in big-hitting stakes.

Also, with their top order based entirely of overseas players, Sunrisers may face a problem in team composition if they need to play Stanlake or Nabi. Williamson may have to sit out to accommodate them, weakening the batting.

Will they think of:

Playing another overseas bowler at Williamson’s expense: With the matches taking place at just three venues, there is every likelihood of the pitches getting tired and aiding spin as the tournament goes along. If the team management opts for Nabi, they will have to omit an overseas batsman. The Warner-Bairstow opening combination is among the most potent in the competition, so the Kiwi maestro may have to make way. Nabi may also be useful with quick runs at the back end of the innings.

Using Bairstow as the wicketkeeper: This scenario would be harsh on Saha, but opens up a spot in the lower-middle order for a leap of faith on one of the youngsters in their squad – the likes of Priyam Garg, Virat Singh, Abdul Samad and Abhishek Sharma.

Who’s the new boy in class …

For a 28-year-old, Mitchell Marsh seems to have been around for ever. He is no stranger to the IPL either, having played for three now-defunct teams in Deccan Chargers, Pune Warriors India and Rising Pune Supergiant. Not necessarily a great omen for his present franchise!

The Aussie selectors as well as several T20 squad selectors have been picking him on potential and genes, waiting for him to turn in consistent match-turning performances. Marsh is classed as an all-rounder and his compatriots – head coach Trevor Bayliss and captain Warner – will hope he can utilise the two strings in his bow to good effect this season.

Heard of this rookie …

Hailing from Jammu, Abdul Samad is likely to elicit a second look automatically. He will turn 19 during the tournament, and has a grand total of 11 Twenty20 games as experience from his only season on the domestic circuit. But he has caught the eye with his big hitting and has a strike rate of well over 100 in first-class cricket. Sunrisers batting mentor VVS Laxman and J&K coach Irfan Pathan seem to have been quite impressed. Samad already has two first-class hundreds, against Assam and Jharkhand, the latter a 75-ball 128 against an attack including his now-teammate Nadeem. He also hit 78 on a “tough wicket” against Maharashtra.

Quarantine Quotient: MODERATE
Average age: 26.64 (first-choice playing XI 28.72)
Total Experience: 2,671 T20 games.

(Calculated on the assumption that age and experience help to cope with COVID-19 restrictions).

Cricket Quotient
Winners: 2016
Last 5 years: 6, 1, 4, 2, 4

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