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Indian Premier League 2024

Have SRH erred in naming Pat Cummins the captain for IPL 2024?

Pat Cummins was named the captain of Sunrisers Hyderabad for the 2024 Indian Premier League
Sarah Waris by Sarah Waris
@swaris16 6 minute read

Pat Cummins was named the captain of Sunrisers Hyderabad for the 2024 Indian Premier League and Sarah Waris weighs in on the decision.

When SRH bid INR 20.5 crore for Pat Cummins in December, one could understand the reasons why. In a league where recency bias has played a large role in player selections, Cummins was always touted to be the big catch after a successful year as captain that saw Australia regain their lost ICC glory by claiming the World Test Championship and the 50-over World Cup. On both occasions, Australia defeated India and the number of instances where players have picked up massive IPL deals after starring against them indicated that Cummins was going to be much sought after.

He is also a player every team needs in their XI: A proper, experienced overseas fast bowler who troubles rival batters with his pace. With a shortage of candidates who can fulfil the above criteria, it was no surprise that Cummins became the most expensive player in the league’s history, going for more than INR 20 crore (USD 2 million) before Mitchell Starc overtook him on the list. Cummins, however, brings with him captaincy experience, which Starc does not.

As expected, Cummins has now been named the skipper of the franchise for 2024, taking over Aiden Markram, who led the side last year. Markram, who was named the T20I captain of South Africa in 2023, has led in 20 international games, which pales in front of Cummins’ successes. Having a World Cup-winning captain at the helm of an IPL franchise also instantly grabs eyeballs and the fact that it came against India makes fans view him with even more reverence. In short, Cummins is the team’s biggest superstar, giving the team sponsors an easy face to market over the next two months.

While the move to appoint Cummins as the skipper fulfils the emotional and even financial demands, it is worth wondering if it is the best cricketing decision with SRH now having a change of guard for the fourth time in as many seasons. Cummins has never led any team in a single T20 and the perception that a good leader overcomes formats to excel in any circumstance has quickly evaporated with an increase in demand for specialised skill sets. T20s have progressed rapidly over recent years even as the two longer formats have held onto their traditional characteristics, requiring swift action and a greater presence of mind over a shorter time.

Markram, on the other hand, has captained 47 T20s and even led the Sunrisers Eastern Cape, owned by the SRH franchise, in the SA20 to two successive titles in the last two years.

Cummins as a T20 bowler hasn’t made waves either. He has played 52 T20Is, averaging 24.77, which increases to 26.73 across 130 T20 matches overall. Cummins concedes runs at 7.99 as well at a strike rate of 20. 100 other quicks have taken at least 145 wickets (the same number as Cummins) and have a better T20 strike rate than him, with only 22 others faring worse than him in this aspect.

In India, his woes are compounded. In five T20Is in the country, Cummins has an economy rate of 9.94, giving away 10 or more four successive times. Figures in the IPL do not paint an impressive picture either: Cummins has played 42 games in the league, picking up 45 wickets at an economy rate of 8.54. In his last two seasons, in 2021 and 2022, when he played for Kolkata Knight Riders, Cummins conceded 9.62 runs in 12 games. He gave away 8.50 runs or more an over eight times and while he picked 16 wickets, he proved to be expensive and cost the team on several occasions.

Cummins ended up playing only five games for KKR in 2022. The team did not have reliable backups for him that season and his poor form cost them. SRH, though, are placed differently this year with plenty of options and ready replacements in case a player fails to take off. In Travis Head, Heinrich Klaasen, Markram, Marco Jansen, Wanindu Hasaranga, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Glenn Phillips and Cummins, they arguably have the strongest overseas contingent, which would have allowed them to go in with a horses-for-courses policy and pick the XI based on conditions. But naming Cummins restricts them massively.

Two players out of Head, Phillips, Markram and Klaasen will have to sit out now, with Hasaranga edging ahead of Jansen. In an ideal set-up, Markram, Klaasen and Phillips would all have been certain starters in any T20 XI  and what makes it worse is that SRH had that opportunity. They have an impressive Indian fast-bowling unit comprising Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umran Malik and T Natarajan. All three are prone to inconsistencies but are also capable of bowling match-winning spells on their day. In case they picked up form over the tournament, SRH would have had the luxury of going in with three domestic bowlers, which would then have given them the option of deepening their batting strength with a third overseas batter. It is unlikely to be the case now. They could have still played Cummins if a pacer failed to get going, but they would not have been tied with a fixed combination.

This decision also risks creating ill will among their players, especially Markram, who will feel hard done by after being replaced by an inexperienced T20 skipper despite leading the Sunrisers to two consecutive SA20 trophies. Over the years, the team has made several inexplicable backroom calls that have put scrutiny on their player management skills. SRH won the IPL in 2016 under David Warner and reached the playoffs every year from then until 2020 before a poor season in 2021 saw them remove the left-hander as skipper midway through the tournament. A prolific run-scorer for the side and a local favourite, he was forced to cheer for his team from the stand and was released in 2022. Recently, Warner announced he had been blocked by SRH on social media.

The team’s reluctance to make Rashid Khan, another consistent performer for the team, the first retention for the side in 2022 over Kane Williamson saw them bid adieu to another loyal servant. Williamson was later released by the team in 2023. Since then, many former SRH players and coaches, including Mohammed Nabi, Tom Moody, Simon Katich and Brad Haddin have admitted to frustration with the workings of the management. Whether there was adequate communication with Markram this time is not known, but the camp seems to have drawn itself into another knot as they go about dealing with another precarious situation where a failure could lead to plenty of blame game.

Cummins comes in with plenty of experience and is considered one of the best Test bowlers of the era, but SRH are guilty of mixing up formats here. In a field where inflated egos are found in abundance, discarding Markram, who has been successful in another league for the franchise, could prove to be disastrous and end in yet another disgruntled player in their line-up. Cummins could well end up proving to be a successful T20 skipper, but an unfavourable result is prone to have repercussions, which could have been avoided from the very onset.

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