The most important player when Sunrisers Hyderabad won their maiden Indian Premier League (IPL) title in 2016 was the man who wept days ago while addressing the press for his involvement in the ball tampering scandal that took place in South Africa.

The controversy that took place in Cape Town rocked the world with its tremors immediately felt in Jaipur and Hyderabad.

IPL franchises Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad lost their captains Steve Smith and David Warner respectively after Cricket Australia (CA) slapped yearlong bans to the duo and Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) followed suit in debarring the Aussie pair from IPL’s 11th edition.

While Rajasthan’s loss of Smith is immense, the void that Warner leaves in the Hyderabad squad is equally, if not more massive.

The left-handed opener has been among top five run-getters in the IPL in the past four years, claiming the Orange Cap twice in the past three seasons, while finishing second-best to Virat Kohli in 2016.

The Sunrisers had a smooth sailing during the mega auctions that took place earlier this year, with VVS Laxman, Tom Moody and other members of the think tank forming the squad around Warner, but the southpaw's involvement in sandpapergate rubbed his team the wrong way.

However, it goes without saying that in Warner, Hyderabad lost a senior statesman and prolific run-scorer at the top of the order and a proven leader.

England’s hard-hitting opener Alex Hales, who was ignored in the auctions benefited from Warner's misfortune, replacing the Aussie in the Hyderabad squad, and will play his first IPL. New Zealand captain, Kane Williamson was named the leader of the squad.

Wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha, who drew a Rs 5 crore bid, believes the team is equipped with enough bench strength to make up for Warner’s loss. There is perhaps merit in his argument and even without Warner, the Hyderabad squad is more than decent to push for a playoff spot.

SRH’s top order looks solid with feisty openers Shikhar Dhawan and Hales, and the reliable Williamson likely to bat at No 3.

The only area of concern for Hyderabad is the requirement of a power-hitter in the middle order. The likes of Manish Pandey, Saha do possess the ability to play the big shots but there is a need for an out-and-out finisher in the line-up.

Going by

the options available, it seems Bangladesh's Shakib Al Hasan will be entrusted with the finisher's role.

With the aging Yusuf Pathan’s power on the wane, this season provides the right opportunity for Deepak Hooda to come of age and fulfil his potential. Hooda might not have had his chance to make his international debut, but a call-up to the India squad for last month's Nidahas Trophy must have done a world of good to his confidence.

Despite SRH competent batting line up, the side’s USP is its potent bowling attack.

The Sunrisers had to rely heavily on their bowlers even after posting 208 in the IPL 2016 final against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). RCB's opening duo of Chris Gayle and Kohli rode past 100 inside the first 10 overs and were on course for their first title. However, the SRH bowlers fought back strongly to pull the game in their favour, restricting RCB eight runs short.

Hyderabad did lose a couple of their bowlers in the auctions, but still have two of the best bowlers in limited overs format in Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Rashid Khan.

Bhuvneshwar possesses the ability to swing the ball upfront and his evolution as a death bowler has been phenomenal. The recipient of the Purple Cap in 2016 and 2017, he has been the leader of SRH’s bowling unit.

There was very little surprise when SRH exercised their ‘Right to Match’ card as Rashid Khan’s name popped up in the auctions. The crafty Afghan spinner was retained for a staggering Rs 9 crore.

With bowlers like Sandeep Sharma, Siddharth Kaul and Basil Thampi in their squad, SRH have plenty of options available in their arsenal, which looks the best in the competition. The team also enjoys the luxury of falling back on Chris Jordan and T Natrajan in case there is a loss of form or an injury to any of the frontline bowlers.

The 'Orange Army' will once again bank on their bowlers to stake a claim for their second IPL title, more so after losing Warner, and the 2016 champions will enter the tournament as dark horses.

Squad: Kane Williamson (C), Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Wriddhiman Saha, Rashid Khan, Shakib Al Hasan, Mohammad Nabi, Carlos Brathwaite, Sandeep Sharma, Deepak Hooda, T Natrajan, Sachin Baby, Chris Jordan, Siddharth Kaul, Shreevats Goswmai, Mehdi Hasan, Basil Thampi, Billy Stanlake, Bipul Sharma, Ricky Bhui,Tanmay Agarwal, Khaleel Ahmed
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