A hardworking captain, brilliant bowling department and talented all-rounders ensured Sunrisers Hyderabad's maiden success in the Indian Premier League
Bangalore: For a major part of this year's IPL, Sun Risers Hyderabad looked set to finish the league stage in the top two and thus earn themselves a cushion as far as qualifying for the final went.
Sunrisers Hyderabad players celebrate their eight-run victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore in the IPL-9 final at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Sunday. Pic/PTI
Well, they didn't finish in the top two and yet here they are, the No 1 team at the end of it all. They won the Eliminator, got through the Second Qualifier and then turned the tables on favourites Royal Challengers Bangalore on a famous Sunday night at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Journey to the top
The journey to the top began in 2013, the year Deccan Chargers, winners in 2009, ceased to exist. Having inherited a lot of players from Chargers, SRH, under Kumar Sangakara, still managed to reach the Playoffs, losing in the Eliminator. The next two years they didn't even make the Playoffs, but perhaps learnt a valuable lesson along the way.
Changing of captains mid-way is not usually the best way to go, but SRH did take that route in 2014, relieving Shikhar Dhawan and bringing in Darren Sammy. In 2015, they dropped Sammy altogether and handed David Warner the reins. Again they failed to qualify, but this time they stood by their captain, continuing with Warner this season.
The tough-as-nails Australian paid back in kind, as he led from the front and not just with the bat. He laid himself on the line at all times, running around the field like a spring chicken when he was not hammering away with his broad blade.
In the opening game, after Bhuvneshwar Kumar was hammered left, right and centre by the same RCB whom they beat in the final, Warner was man enough to admit that he made a mistake by not speaking to his bowler during the mayhem. Perhaps that was the catalyst as thereafter Warner the captain was far more active, at times pro-active, and all the while listened to the opinions of those around him, both on field and off it.
More importantly, all along Warner didn't lose belief, not in himself, not in his team and certainly not in his bowlers, who he was to call his mainstay. It's an aspect of the game that SRH have always been top of, be it when they had the likes of Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra or now when none of the three were around.
Instead they had Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the man to bowl at the top and at the death and Mustafizur Rahman, whose death bowling defined the tournament, if you can leave aside Virat Kohli's efforts for the moment. Save for Barinder Sran, who too was amongst the wickets with 14 to his credit, all the main bowlers went for less than eight runs an over in a tournament where big totals were not just made but chased down with ease too.
Bhuvi, Rahman two good
Kumar with 23 scalps claimed the Purple Cap but it was Rahman, who stole the hearts with his searing yorkers that didn't just catch some batsmen on the wrong foot, but sent the likes of Andre Russell off his feet. His 16 wickets at under 7 an over ensured SRH were able to put aside the loss of veteran Ashish Nehra.
They didn't have anything resembling a spin department, unthinkable on Indian wickets, but such was the impact of Kumar and Rahman, supported by all-rounders Moses Henriques and Ben Cutting, that they still had the opponent batsmen in a spin.
In the end it was about the captain with the bat, supported on occasions by fellow opener Dhawan, propped at times by crucial cameos from Yuvraj Singh, handy contributions from a couple of all-rounders, who between them, kept out two international captains, and a fast bowling unit with pace, guile and intent that did the trick for the worthy winners.
That they also received the Fair Play award also went to show that nice guys can finish first.