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Pat Cummins latest addition to Sunrisers Hyderabad’s revolving door policy

Four different coach-captain combinations in successive years make the 2016 IPL champions appear too desperate for instant success

There is no one way to win the Indian Premier League (IPL). Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings will tell you something different though. Get an Indian captain, better still a batter; form a solid Indian core, preferably a mix of young and experienced, and get at least two world-class bowlers.

Leave alone an IPL team, Cummins hasn’t even led a T20 side before this.(BCCI)

The longer a franchise retains this composition in a viable environment, the better the returns. The coaching staff don’t always get mentioned in the same breath, but CSK and MI will be the first to share how stability behind the scenes has reflected in their sustained success.

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It’s a model many franchises have tried to replicate and failed, before trying again. But some take it too far. Like Sunrisers Hyderabad. Four seasons in a row they have changed the captain and coach combination — moving on from David Warner and Trevor Bayliss in 2021 to Kane Williamson and Tom Moody in 2022, Aiden Markram and Brian Lara in 2023 and Pat Cummins and Daniel Vettori now.

And the results reflected that instability too. Eighth out of eight teams in 2021 and 10 in 2022, and bottom-placed in 2023, Hyderabad have gone from bad to worse to plain miserable considering that they had strung together five consecutive playoff finishes — with a title in 2016 — preceding this slump.

Back they went to the drawing board to build a squad from scratch this time. Releasing Harry Brook and Adil Rashid helped with the purse, allowing Sunrisers to go all out for World Cup-winning Travis Head and Pat Cummins after pocketing Wanindu Hasaranga for a bargain price of ₹1.50 crore.

The Australian buys were clearly performance related, given the auction was barely a month after last November’s ODI World Cup final. But leave alone an IPL team, Cummins hasn’t even led a T20 side before this. His IPL economy of 8.54 isn’t much to write home about, and there remains considerable doubt over how quickly he can gel with the Indian bowling attack comprising Bhuvneshwar

Kumar, T Natarajan and Umran Malik in just under a week before the tournament begins. It also highlights an underlying problem of SRH trying to rely too much on too few players. Last season began with fanfare

as Brook hammered a hundred against KKR but apart from that he did not score 30 even once. Mayank Agarwal proved a dud, Malik was conspicuously absent in many games as captain Aiden Markram looked clueless at times. Struggling to find stability in both batting and bowling, Sunrisers used seven opening combinations and 23 players overall.

Also disappointing is how they have failed to maximise the talent of Washington Sundar and give him the confidence to be a long-term asset. To be fair to the franchise, Sundar — he is known to be injury-prone — hasn’t done justice to his talent either. Same with Abhishek Sharma and Abdul Samad and therein lies a problem Sunrisers can do nothing about, apart from hoping. The only exception among the Indians was Mayank Markande who was difficult to score off in the middle overs, finishing with an economy rate of 7.89.

It automatically puts the pressure back on the overseas players, barring Heinrich Klaasen, who finished last season with 448 runs in 11 innings, striking at 177.07, with two fifties and a century. And that can’t be a great setting to begin in, especially when Cummins and Head know little of the franchise, its culture, and more importantly, the management.

Putting Daniel Vettori at the helm might seem a smart move given his extensive IPL experience, both as player and coach, apart

from the fact that he has been in the same dressing room as Cummins and Head. Even then, Sunrisers’ fate will likely boil down to the management skills of the Australia Test and ODI skipper.

This, no doubt, has been the season of Cummins, but IPL is a slightly more complicated job than leading Australia. Momentum is a massive factor. This being an Indian election year, Cummins will also have to take into account the staggered nature of the tournament. More pressing seems the need to get the combination right and stick with it even if it doesn’t yield the desired results at the beginning.

This is where Cummins will be really tested. Head at the top, Klaasen in the middle, Cummins and Hasaranga anchoring the bowling is the expected overseas roster, but balancing it with Indian talent is where Australia’s World Cup winning captain will have to use all his acumen.


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