The Sunrisers Hyderabad surprised everyone by going all the way to clinch the IPL 2016 title. Defending the title as competitive as the Indian Premier League, though, is the most difficult thing to do for any team, and that is what SRH will set out to do when IPL 2017 comes calling from Wednesday.
With David Warner in unstoppable form and all the other batsmen around him contributing some valuable runs, SRH gave their bowlers the confidence they needed to stop the opposition from running away with the game, and that strategy paid rich dividends for the team from Hyderabad last year.
There is no reason to change anything as SRH go into the new season and with an even stronger squad at their disposal.
Here is a look at the SRH team for the IPL 2017 season – their squad, key players, captain, auction buys and prediction.
How did last season go?
As mentioned above, could not have gone any better. Momentum is so key in the IPL, and with Warner in special form and Mustafizur Rahman and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bringing their A-game with the ball, SRH just rode the momentum all the way to the title, after beating the much-fancied RCB in the final at their own backyard.
Who are the new players coming in? Any interesting buys during the IPL 2017 player auction?
The Sunrisers Hyderabad made astute buys during the IPL 2016 player auction, and the IPL 2017 auction in February was no different. They came in knowing exactly what they needed, and even when they did not get their first options, they made sure they had solid backups, that could prove to be just as effective.
SRH's biggest buy at the auction was Rashid Khan, the Afghanistan player, who was bought for Rs 4 crore (around $616,000). Rashid is quite difficult to get away in the T20 game, and, depending on how many opportunities he gets, he could prove to be a really solid buy. SRH also bought a second Afghanistan player in Mohammad Nabi, who was nabbed for just Rs 30 lakh ($46000).
Mohammaed Siraj then became one of those unknown, where-did-he-come-from and "why are they paying so much for him" buys of this year's IPL auction. The fast bowler has impressed in the domestic circuit and after SRH showed the importance of having a strong bowling attack in the last auction, they decided to spend big – to the tune of Rs 2.6 crore ($400000) to get the man they wanted.
Six more players were bought in by the current IPL champs – Eklavya Dwivedi (Rs 75 lakh, $115000), Chris Jordan (Rs 50 lakh, $77000), Ben Laughlin (Rs 30 lakh), Pravin Tambe (Rs 10 lakh, $15400) and Tanmay Agarwal (Rs 10 lakh).
What about the overseas players from last season? Who stands out and must perform?
David Warner, David Warner, David Warner. He might not have had the greatest of Test series for Australia against India, but when it comes to the T20 game, there are few more lethal at the top of the order than the left-hander. Much of SRH's batting revolves around Warner, and as much as they would like to believe they have the strength in depth to make-up if Warner fails, he is the key, and then some.
Mustafizur was one of the best bowlers in IPL 2017, with his cutters still proving to be just as difficult to hit. There is a bit of an injury cloud hanging over the left-armer. Some reports suggested Mustafizur could yet skip the entire season, owing to the fact that he only recently returned from a long-term injury. SRH, though, are planning for life with the Bangladesh man, and they will hope he plays for them, because, after Warner, he is probably their most important player.
Ben Cutting and Moises Henriques were effective in their own way last season and SRH will hope for even better contributions from the two Australians this time around.
Kane Williamson did not get as much game time as he would have liked in IPL 2016, and the New Zealand skipper will want this to be the year he really finds his IPL and T20 mojo.
And the Indian players?
There's Bhuvneshwar, who should be reasonably fresh, considering he did not get much game time during India's long home season. The pacer is an extremely underrated T20 bowler – he can pick up wickets with the new ball and he has gone up a couple of levels with his death bowling.
Ashish Nehra and Barinder Sran are SRH's two left-arm seam Indian options, and Nehra should get the nod ahead of the latter. The veteran is somewhat of a T20 specialist now, and having missed the bulk of last season through injury, he will be keen to make a big impact in IPL 2017.
The two big batting names in the SRH squad are Shikhar Dhawan and Yuvraj Singh.
Dhawan has lost his place in the India team due to his lack of consistency. If he is to stand any chance of making the ICC Champions Trophy squad, he needs runs, and lots of them, in the IPL.
Yuvraj is not the player he was, of that there is no doubt. But then, that also doesn't mean he cannot contribute. There is still that ridiculous talent in there and Yuvraj will win SRH a few games this season.
Who does the entire squad look like?
Solid squad, that is reliant on their bowling and captain Warner for runs.
Squad: Indians: Shikhar Dhawan, Yuvraj Singh, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Naman Ojha (WK), Deepak Hooda, Tanmay Agarwal, Ricky Bhui, Bipul Sharma, Eklavya Dwivedi, Siddarth Kaul, A Mithun, Mohammed Siraj, Vijay Shankar, Barinder Sran, Pravin Tambe.
Overseas: David Warner (C), Ben Cutting, Moises Henriques, Chris Jordan, Ben Laughlin, Mohammad Nabi, Mustafizur Rahman, Rashid Khan, Kane Williamson.
When is their opening match?
As the defending champions, SRH will kickoff IPL 2017 with a home game in Hyderabad on Wednesday, April 5 against the finalists from last season – RCB.
What can we expect from SRH this season?
As said earlier, defending the title is a whole lot more difficult than winning it for the first time. SRH have the resources to go all the way this season, but the only worry remains in the fact that they look like being, again, a little too reliant on Warner for the runs.
If the rest of the batsmen step up, SRH should make the playoffs, and if they do that, they are more than capable of going all the way again.