The Sunrisers Hyderabad are struggling big time this IPL season. After losing their first two games, they bounced back brilliantly to win the next five but have now endured four losses in a row. This form has set them back in the playoff race, with the team languishing in 6th with 10 points.
The majority of their failures this season have to be attributed to the form of their captain Kane Williamson. The Kiwi batsman has scored just 199 runs in the 11 matches that he has played, averaging just under 20. A more startling statistic is his strike rate, which is a tad over 96. Williamson has had a torrid campaign and here, we take a look at some of the reasons for his bad form this season.
Replacing Warner As Captain
Eyebrows were raised when New Zealand captain Kane Williamson was retained by the Sunrisers Hyderabad for a mammoth sum of ₹14 crores ahead of the auction. The argument from the critics was that the New Zealand skipper wouldn't have gone for the same amount in the mega-auction. To make matters worse, they let go of David Warner, who led them in four seasons and delivered their only championship to date, and Rashid Khan, who has been their best player for the past five years. However, SRH's management believed that the New Zealand captain was the man to lead the team into a new era of the IPL. It was a bit harsh on Williamson, who had to take over from Warner in difficult circumstances and win over the fans once again.
The last time Williamson had to replace Warner as skipper was in 2018 when the Australian was banned for a year due to his role in Newland's ball-tampering fiasco. Williamson did just fine back then, leading the team to the finals and winning the orange cap. But it hasn't turned out well for him on this occasion.
Removing Warner from the captaincy did not go well with the fans and his successor will have a gigantic task ahead of him. Amidst a cloud of uncertainty and the added pressure of having to prove yourself once again, Kane Williamson began the IPL season. And to put it politely, he has endured a difficult campaign so far.
The Elbow Injury
Williamson has suffered a recurring tendon injury to his left elbow, which has limited his game time ahead of the IPL. The elbow injury kept him out of the test series in India and also the whole of the New Zealand summer, including the Test series against Bangladesh and South Africa.
Williamson was in doubt to play in this year's IPL as well but was passed fit just in time before the start of the season. Although the injury doesn't seem to affect his movements on the field, it may have a detrimental effect on his batting.
Since the start of the season, Williamson has struggled with his wristwork, which is a key component of his game. His ability to pick up gaps on the field does seem to be wearing off and his injury might have a role in that. Time and time again this season, the Kiwi batsman has been finding the fielder and not the gap, especially during the powerplay. This is reflected in the number of boundaries that Williamson has scored this season, which is a meager 14 in 11 games.
His ability to navigate spin has also decreased, with the batsman striking at less than 100 against the spinners. While the elbow injury shouldn't be an excuse for his poor form, it does seem to have an effect on his game.
Pressure Of Captaincy
The added pressure of being the leader of the team, especially in the IPL, where captains are constantly scrutinized for their decisions on the field, does seem to have an effect on his batting. While Williamson does lead his country in all formats of the game, the pressure involved in leading an IPL side is greater than captaining the Blackcaps.
While heralded as one of the best tactical minds in the modern game, Williamson's captaincy this season hasn't been up to scratch. Sunrisers have conceded above 190 runs 5 times this season, out of which thrice the opposition has crossed 200. While it isn't totally his fault, he is certainly partly responsible for the team's performance. Giving the last over to an inexperienced Marco Jansen in the game against GT was one such example.
Batting At The Top And Strike Rate Issues
Williamson has opened in all games this season for SRH even though he hasn't opened the batting for New Zealand in T20 cricket. The 31-year-old batted at the top of the order earlier in 2018 for SRH with mixed results but has since occupied the No. 3 slot. Even though SRH have designated openers in Tripathi and Markram, they have persisted with Williamson at the top.
Williamson has a below-par strike rate of 105 after facing 1270 balls in the powerplay in T20 cricket, while his overall strike is a respectable 122.24. His strike rate in the powerplay this season is even worse, at 79.52. No opener in the history of the IPL, having faced 150 balls, has a lower strike rate than Williamson's 96.14 this season. This has meant that SRH hasn't been getting the starts they need at the top of the order, which has put even more pressure on the middle order.
Tripathi, Markram, and Pooran have masked their deficiencies in the initial games but while chasing huge targets, SRH's batting order has been exposed.
So, will Williamson be given enough time to get his mojo back, or will the management once again fire their skipper midway through the season? One way for Williamson to get back into form is to return to his favored No. 3 spot. He has a strike rate of 130 in the middle overs and a mammoth 168.5 at the death in T20 cricket.
With the Sunrisers needing to win every game from here to qualify for the playoffs, they need their skipper to lead from the front.