Desperate times reflect in radical measures. The Sunrisers Hyderabad replacing David Warner with Kane Williamson as captain might seem like one, but the move isn't bereft of precedent or context. The Kolkata Knight Riders made a similar switch last year. This announcement, however, comes in the wake of Warner's public owning up of "responsibility" for the team's fifth defeat in six games, and a critique of a "harsh" selection call a game earlier.
The build-up to their clash on Sunday against the Rajasthan Royals remains wrapped in a degree of uncertainty. The franchise has made it clear that a change in their overseas combination for the game is imminent.
Like their opponent, the Royals, who have just one win more than the Sunrisers, are in pursuit of a turnaround. A gradual depletion of their overseas contingent, admitted Royals captain Sanju Samson after their seven-wicket defeat on Thursday, has been "tough" to contend with. The want of end-overs impetus has also hurt their campaign this season.
Recurrent erosion of momentum at the death, therefore, might warrant a review of their batting order, most notably the role of Shivam Dube. At No. 4, Dube's strike rate has hovered between 29 and 113 in four innings this year, his 31-ball 35 playing a part in stalling the Royals to just 171 in the previous game despite brisk, substantial knocks by the top three. A promotion for David Miller to that position could translate into better use of quick-scoring weaponry available at their disposal.
Jason Roy, who was roped in as Mitchell Marsh's replacement, or Jason Holder could be in line to get a game if Warner is left out. Senior pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar sat out the last two games because of a thigh strain he suffered on April 21. He is understood to have resumed bowling and could slot in for one of Siddarth Kaul or Sandeep Sharma.
The Royals fielded the same starting XI in their previous two outings. Their overseas roster stands at just five members, with Rassie van der Dussen's stint now apparently cancelled after he supposedly failed to obtain an NOC from Cricket South Africa. He had earlier signed on as a replacement for Ben Stokes. Any potential changes in the line-up for the face-off against the Sunrisers, therefore, would involve 20-year-old South African fast bowler Gerald Coetzee, who finished quarantine and trained with the Royals squad on Saturday, and domestic personnel, which includes the likes of Mahipal Lomror, Shreyas Gopal, and Mayank Markande.
Rajasthan Royals: 1 Jos Buttler, 2 Yashasvi Jaiswal, 3 Sanju Samson (capt & wk), 4 David Miller, 5 Riyan Parag, 6 Rahul Tewatia, 7 Shivam Dube/Mahipal Lomror, 8 Chris Morris, 9 Jaydev Unadkat/Shreyas Gopal, 10 Chetan Sakariya, 11 Mustafizur Rahman
Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner/Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3, Manish Pandey, 4 Kane Williamson (captain), 5 Vijay Shankar, 6 Kedar Jadhav, 7 Rashid Khan, 8 J Suchith/Abhishek Sharma, 9 Bhuvneshwar Kumar/Siddarth Kaul, 10 Sandeep Sharma, 11 Khaleel Ahmed
Only two wickets, at an economy of 10.30, have come off the 27 overs of spin the Royals deployed in six games. That they are facing a side with the lowest boundary percentage, 46.77, against spin in this edition of the IPL should, however, encourage them to slot Gopal back into the XI or hand Mayank Markande his first game of the season, with a third frontline legspinner in KC Cariappa also in the squad. Gopal, despite having conceded at an economy of 12.50 in the six overs he has delivered across two games, remains the frontrunner among the trio to make the cut.
Buttler's 32-ball 41 on Thursday and Sanju Samson's two back-to-back brisk 40-plus heading into Sunday's game would inspirit the Royals in light of the pair's inconsistent runs this season. Their performance against the Sunrisers attack, though, fall somewhat on the two ends of the spectrum: Buttler averages a mere 9.1 against them, scoring at 95 while Samson strikes at 126 and averages 44. Neither, however, have traditionally scored quickly of Rashid Khan - their strike is under 85 - so expect the Sunrisers to unleash their premier legspinner when either batter is in the middle.
Stats that matter
Chris Morris's 11 wickets in IPL 2021 put him in touching distance of bettering his best ever tally in a season - 15, achieved in the 2013 edition. No other Royals bowler has reached double figures in the wickets column yet this year.
Warner's strike rate of 110 this season is his lowest in the tournament since 2018 and the second-lowest among 11 regular openers since IPL 2020. Shubman Gill tops that list with 118, a shade poorer than Warner's 126.
One hit each will take Manish Pandey, who made his 150th IPL appearance on Thursday, to 100 sixes and 300 fours in the IPL.