In the initial stages, Sunrisers Hyderabad’s chance of making to the playoffs was a joke. They looked the weakest team of the tournament. With an inconsistent batting line-up and selection issues, it seemed as if they needed a miracle to progress to the next stage. And this is exactly why it seemed unjust when they succumbed to Mumbai Indians on Sunday.

After starting slow, the Sunrisers made a remarkable turnaround in the tournament. After languishing at the bottom of the table for the first few matches, they climbed slowly and steadily, venturing into the top-four.

Despite Sunriser David Warner having the Orange Cap given to the player who had scored the most runs, Hyderabad’s weakest feature this year has been their batting. The problem was that the Orange Cap holder scored most of the runs. The others did not.

The middle order looked unstable with the lack of a proper number three and a finisher. Warner had to score well in the beginning and do it quickly. The rest of them would then stutter to a modest total. During chases, the pressure on Warner doubled.

Failing to fire

Adding to their batting woes, Kevin Pietersen, their trump card, was not available because he returned to England to play country cricket. Eoin Morgan’s poor run in the World Cup extended to the IPL. The team management could not fit in the talented Kane Williamson. Ravi Bopara, the all-rounder, sparked occasionally, but never really fired.

None of the Indian batsmen in the team were successful. Shikhar Dhawan sometimes failed to convert his good starts and never got one on other occasions. KL Rahul, whenever he was picked, looked like he was finding it difficult to adapt to T20. Naman Ojha, once a bright, young prospect for the Indian team, was disappointing. Ashish Reddy and Hanuma Vihari, chipped in with their tens and twenties ‒ rarely.

The initial few victories of the Sunrisers were because of Warner and more importantly, the bowlers. Unlike their batting unit, the Sunrisers Hyderabad enjoyed a battalion of swing bowlers. Dale Steyn, Trent Boult, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma. Add to this, Karan Sharma and the medium pace of Ravi Bopara or Moises Henriques.

The Sunrisers bowling was one of their main strengths in this year’s tournament. Despite having Steyn and Boult, they had to be content with only one of them so that they needn’t sacrifice a batting position. Except on one occasion, only either of them was picked for the final eleven.

Steyn is not as big a threat in T20 as he is when wearing whites, holding a red ball. And, he was not at his usual best this season. He was sometimes expensive. Boult, except for a few matches, kept it tight. But the best bowler for Sunrisers this time was neither; it was Bhuvneshwar Kumar.

Bhuvneshwar swung the ball during his initial spells. He regularly picked an early wicket for his team. He never tried to do anything fancy. He had a few weapons in his armory. He kept sharpening those skills and used them intelligently. If his inswingers and outswingers troubled the batsmen early on, then his accurate yorkers made it incredibly tough for the batsmen to free their arms in the final overs. In fact, the highest percentage of his wickets came in the death overs.

Praveen Kumar, Ravi Bopara, Moises Henriques, and Karn Sharma chipped in with the ball as well.

A turnaround

Still, the Hyderabad team found it difficult to win matches on the trot and create a momentum. But after halfway through the tournament, they started appearing more cohesive and balanced. At one point, they won three matches on the trot. After the team management persisted with Morgan, he played a 63- knock against Rajasthan Royals, during which he looked like he looked like he found his form.

Another important reason for their turnaround was Moises Henriques. The little-known Australian started scoring consistently, coming in at number three. It lent stability to the middle order. His big hits towards the end propelled the score from a modest to match-winning.

The team looked set, winning three out of its last four matches. They looked like they would enter play-offs and potential dark horse. But on a day when their batting unit should have clicked more than ever, they fell apart. One day of atrocious batting cost them the play-off spot. Apart from that, Sunrisers should be proud of the way they have played throughout this tournament.

Mumbai Indians (114 for 1 in 13.5 overs) beat Sunrisers Hyderabad (113 for 10 in 20 overs) by nine wickets.