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Indian Premier League 2020

How Sunrisers Hyderabad can rejig their side in Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s absence

Bhuvneshwar IPL 2020
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 4-minute read

A hip injury ruled Bhuvneshwar Kumar out of IPL 2020, leaving the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) without their pace-bowling spearhead. Do they have enough depth in their squad to compensate for the loss?

In the 19th over of SRH’s clash against Chennai Super Kings last week, when Bhuvneshwar pulled up thrice and sent down just one delivery in the over, the immediate worry revolved around who would bowl in the final over of CSK’s chase. Khaleel Ahmed finished Bhuvneshwar’s over, sending down the remaining five deliveries, leaving leg-spinner Abdul Samad to defend 28 against MS Dhoni in the final over. At the time, the bigger picture was, fleetingly, forgotten.

With Bhuvneshwar now being ruled out of the remainder of IPL 2020, SRH’s topsy turvy campaign has been dealt a severe blow – their win over CSK was their second straight win after two losses, but the absence of their spearhead leaves the pace attack looking rather light.

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Bhuvneshwar’s exit marks the second injury-induced change for SRH this season, with Mitchell Marsh having limped out of the tournament with an ankle issue two weeks back. The side immediately roped in Jason Holder as a replacement, and while he is yet to play a game, the all-rounder is a handy seam-bowling option to have.

The void left by Bhuvneshwar will be harder to fill. He has been SRH’s go-to bowler since he joined them in 2014. From 2014 to 2017, his season bowling averages stood at 17.70, 22.61, 21.30 and 14.19, and he picked up at least 18 wickets each season, finishing atop the tournament wicket charts in 2016 and 2017. An injury in 2018, and the length recuperation that followed, resulted in him losing some of his sheen, but he’s since discovered shades of his old self after the pandemic-enforced break this year.

Bhuvneshwar’s absence, in essences, leave SRH with a few different problems to sort. We look at them below:

Can an overseas player replace Bhuvneshwar in the XI?

Bhuvneshwar’s absence lays bare SRH’s overseas conundrum. He can’t be easily replaced in the XI by a non-Indian quick. David Warner and Rashid Khan are shoo-ins in the side; Jonny Bairstow, with two fifties in the season, is most likely to continue opening with Warner, and Kane Williamson, having pipped Mohammad Nabi for the overseas fourth slot, offers much-needed solidity to the middle order, which was shaky, to say the least, when they lost their opening two encounters in IPL 2020.

It is, therefore, difficult for them to accommodate an overseas seamer, even with Holder and Billy Stanlake in the squad. The pitches are expected to slow down further as the season progresses, though, and perhaps SRH might even be tempted to draft in an additional spinner. Along with Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi, they have Jamaican all-rounder Fabian Allen to consider, but given their part-time troupe of Abhishek Sharma, Abdul Samad and Kane Williamson, they’re not short of options in that department.

With the overseas spots difficult to move around, the absence of Bhuvneshwar puts more pressure on their Indian seamers to make a mark for the remainder of IPL 2020.

Will the Indian seamers rise to the occasion?

SRH’s Indian pace contingent will likely have a hard time match the impact Bhuvneshwar usually has with the new ball and at the death. Before IPL 2020 began, CricViz said that Bhuvneshwar had a match impact of +3.7 among Indian bowlers, second only to Jasprit Bumrah.

His replacement in the squad, the left-arm quick Prithvi Raj Yarra, featured in last year’s IPL, playing two games for Kolkata Knight Riders. However, from the current line-up, the onus will fall on Sandeep Sharma and Siddarth Kaul, who, with a combined tally of over 120 IPL games, carry enough experience between them. The squad also includes Basil Thampi, who debuted in the IPL in 2017, and is known to bowl at a brisk pace and can be one of the options to choose from.

While Bhuvneshwar’s overall record has been phenomenal, his record in the last two seasons, at the death, has been relatively poor, which gives the rest of the bowlers an opportunity to prove themselves.

The rise of left-arm seamer T Natarajan has been a big positive for them so far. The 29-year-old seamer cleverly mixed up his deliveries so far, sending down inch-perfect yorkers consistently for the team in the back end. Against Delhi Capitals last month, Natarajan sent down nine out of the 16 yorkers bowled by SRH – Bhuvneshwar’s absence could give him, and Khaleel Ahmed, to emerge from the shadows.

It also paves the way for a comeback for all-rounder Vijay Shankar. Shankar lost his place in the XI after a back injury, with big-hitter Abdul Samad being preferred, but his seam-bowling capabilities could help him get his spot back if he recovers in time. All said, though, SRH have a huge task to continue their winning streak without their main fast bowler.

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