AB de Villiers cut a confident figure ahead of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s second match of Indian Premier League 2021. In an interview posted on RCB’s YouTube channel, he touched upon Sunrisers Hyderabad’s strengths but also made an interesting point about what he reckoned was their weakness.

“You can get hold of them, which we’ve done before,” said de Villiers. “Once you get on top of them, they’re a kind of team you can really dominate. They don’t have as much depth as some of the teams in the IPL.”

De Villiers was surprisingly candid but he stood vindicated when RCB pulled off a dramatic win over SRH on Wednesday. The Sunrisers were going strong but as ABD pointed out before the match, the lack of depth in their lineup allowed them to get dominated from a winning position.

For the second night in a row, the team batting second suffered a dramatic collapse at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. After Kolkata Knight Riders’ bizarre loss to Mumbai Indians, it was SRH’s turn to steal defeat from the jaws of victory.

David Warner and Co were well and truly on top chasing 150 at the Chepauk. In 13.1 overs, they got to 96/1 with captain Warner and Manish Pandey well set at the crease. They needed 54 runs off 41 balls with nine wickets remaining.

But from there on, they scored just 47 runs and lost eight more wickets. In terms of boundaries, after hitting a four to end the 14th over, SRH hit just one four and six in the last 36 balls of the innings.

“We needed two set batsmen at the end, but we failed to do that,” said Warner after the game. “We needed to build a partnership and play proper cricket shots. We played cross-batted shots, and that’s not the way to play here. We need minimum damage in the first six overs and should play simple cricket.”

Change in approach

There are two venues that have been used in IPL 2021 so far and the contrast in terms of pitches couldn’t have been more stark. While the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai has seen the likes of Sanju Samson stand up tall and flick balls for sixes, the surfaces in Chennai have demanded a much harder grind from batsmen. They haven’t had uneven bounce, but their sluggish nature has been far from conducive for strokeplay.

Now, after consecutive collapses and with six more games to be played in Chennai, perhaps it is time for teams to recalibrate their batting approach at the venue.

First things first, as Warner pointed out after Hyderabad’s defeat, teams must look to make the most of the hard new ball which comes on to the bat. With the last five overs proving to be a great challenge, it is imperative to conserve wickets in the first half of the innings while also capitalising on run-scoring opportunities. This is easier said than done, of course, but it will give teams the best chance of winning the battle in the death overs.

Secondly, as Virat Kohli suggested at the toss for the SRH game, strike rotation is key on slow-ish pitches. Timing the ball without a big bat-swing, finding the gaps and running hard between the wickets can help keep the scoring rate up when boundaries are hard to come by.

Then, there is the onus on set batsmen to take responsibility as it can be difficult to get your eye in on slow pitches. Against RCB, Warner did well to score 54 off 37 but he failed to kill the contest and threw his wicket away with a nothing shot to long-on.

But more disappointing for SRH was Manish Pandey’s innings. The right-hander scored a-run-a-ball 38 and right after Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal, he decided to step out and swing his bat without getting anywhere close to the pitch of the ball. It was a reckless shot and his team needed a lot better from him at that point.

Finally, the choice of shots while looking to attack much also be looked at. Hyderabad’s middle order was blown away by RCB, with Bairstow, Abdul Samad and Vijay Shankar all playing across the line. As Warner said, playing cross-batted shots isn’t prudent on surfaces where the ball stops and comes. Since the pace of the delivery can’t really be trusted, batsmen must look to get to the pitch of the ball and hit straight as much as possible.

Of the six remaining matches in Chennai this season, three will feature Sunrisers Hyderabad. If they end up chasing again, the lack of depth in their lineup, as suggested by de Villiers, could prove to be costly. But on the other hand, bowling has been their clear strength for years now and perhaps, they should back themselves to defend totals going forward at the Chepauk.