Dubai: After finishing fourth in the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL), SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) will start their present campaign with a game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), who are looking for their maiden title, at the iconic Dubai International Cricket stadium here on Monday.
While SRH have clinched the trophy once in 2016, besides the 2009 triumph in their earlier avatar as Deccan Chargers, the Virat Kohli-led RCB are yet to lay their hands on the coveted trophy.
For this year's edition of the lucrative league, the David Warner-led SRH have made a few changes in their squad. The 'Orange Army' will miss the services of ace all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan, who was released by the franchise after being banned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for failing to report the approach of bookies elsewhere.
With skipper Warner and Jonny Bairstow, the SRH are considered to have one of the best opening pairs and if the duo gets going, the Hyderabad franchise will pose a big threat for their opponents.
Warner is also the leading run scorer for SRH after accumulating 3,271 runs from 71 games, averaging 55.44. Bairstow, who joined SRH last year, also impressed everyone after gathering 445 runs from 10 games at a decent average of 55.62.
The pace attack will be led by Bhuvneshwar Kumar, who hasn't played any professional game since December 2019. The 30-year-old has 109 wickets from 86 games and is the leading wicket-taker for SRH. Bhuvneshwar, however, will need support from Khaleel Ahmed, Sandeep Sharma, Basil Thampi and Siddarth Kaul.
If SRH want to replicate their 2016 show, a lot will depend on how their spinners perform in the low and slow tracks in the UAE.
The spin attack will be led by Afghanistan leggie Rashid Khan and will be supported by his compatriot Mohammad Nabi, who had a decent outing in he just concluded Caribbean Premier League. Nabi picked 12 wickets from as many games with an economy rate of 5.10.
Other than these two, SRH also have left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem in their ranks and the Jharkhand spinner is known to be very accurate with his line and length.
Warner's side also has spin-bowling all-rounders in Fabian Allen, Sanjay Yadav, Abdul Samad, and Abhishek Sharma.
On the other hand, RCB is one of the three teams in the league who are yet to win the trophy.
Kohli-led RCB's biggest strength has been their batting and the skipper is undoubtedly, one of the best in business when it comes to white-ball cricket. The team management along with Kohli will hope that he replicates the form he had shown in the 2016 edition where he had scored four centuries.
Alongside Kohli, the RCB also have one of the best explosive T20 batsmen in AB de Villiers. The RCB's batting mostly revolves around Kohli and de Villiers and if the duo fires, things will be easier for the team. Moreover, they both have also shown over the past how to be a livewire in the ground when it comes to fielding.
Also with the inclusion of Aaron Finch, the RCB's top-order looks quite effective.
Youngster Devdutt Padikkal is likely to open the innings with Finch while Joshua Phillipe is the other opening option for the RCB.
Also, all-rounder Chris Morris has been a great addition to the side and will play the role of the explosive finisher that the RCB always looked for.
The RCB franchise has acquired the services of Morris and Isuru Udana to overcome their weaknesses at 'death' bowling.
In the middle-order, the RCB has some quality with the likes of Moeen Ali, Shivam Dube and Morris, who all have the ability to demolish any bowling attack.
Experienced South African pacer Dale Steyn will lead the charge of the pace bowling attack while Navdeep Saini, Isuru Udana, Mohammed Siraj and Umesh Yadav will look to hand equal support to the lethal pacer.
Meanwhile, Yuzvendra Chahal, , Pawan Negi, Adam Zampa and Washington Sundar whosoever gets a chance in the playing XI, are the spin bowling options for skipper Kohli and looking at the nature of wicket in the UAE, they all need to step up if the RCB wantsto march ahead in the league.
Overall, SRH looks slightly better than their opponents for the Monday game but with the change in venues and conditions, it could be anybody's game in Dubai