Manish Pandey more confident now and that augurs well for Sunrisers: Laxman | Cricket News


HYDERABAD: It was an anti-climactic end to the Sunrisers Hyderabad last season. They were cruising along merrily when David Warner and Jonny Bairstow were in full flight, taking a heavy toll on the opposition attacks. But the duo’s good form meant less deliveries for the batsmen that followed and that they couldn’t drive home the advantage added to their woes.
SRH finished in the top four, but their mentor VVS Laxman reckoned the shortcomings of the last season were addressed at the auction by the acquisition of some exciting young talent. Manish Pandey, too, Laxman said, has gained in confidence with his India outings and that augurs well for SRH. Laxman spoke at length to TOI from Dubai.
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DESERT SAFARI: Firstly, the chartered flight from Mumbai to Dubai was well organised. We were tested twice before we left India and once on arrival at the Dubai airport. We were in quarantine for six days and had three more tests. Be it food or laundry, nobody was allowed to come in contact with us for six days. Since everyone tested negative on Saturday, we’ve had four sessions. While the first one saw us do team bonding drills, we had high intensity sessions at Sharjah and the ICC Academy in Dubai in the other sessions. All the players from India were on the chartered flight. Players engaged with the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) – Rashid Khan and Mohd Nabi – and bilateral series (England-Australia) – David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Billy Stanlake and Jonny Bairstow – will join us in due course. Muralitharan (Muttiah) will join us on Sept 4.
IN SAFE HANDS: I’d like to laud the franchise and BCCI for the strict protocols laid down. Even the resort staff and the bus driver are part of the bubble. We have designated areas like the team meeting room, pool, gym. Even while training at Sharjah and ICC Academy, proper care was taken. The BCCI webinar informed the do’s and don’t to the players. We need to be tested every five days and wear a tracker.
BACK ON THE FIELD: It was great to be on the field again. Barring few, most of us missed being on the cricket field. It was good to see that a majority of players were in good touch. I was apprehensive that they might be rusty or out of rhythm, but all of them were in good shape and matched the parameters set by the SRH staff.
WOES ADDRESSED: We were in the top four last season. (David) Warner and (Jonny) Bairstow had a remarkable season. But since they faced the bulk of bowling and balls, the middle order didn’t get the required outing in the middle. And once they left for national duty, we didn’t play to our potential. We were seized of the matter and looked to address it at the auction. We picked some exciting domestic talent in the middle order. We have U-19 captain Priyam Garg, Abdul Samad from J&K and Virat Singh, a prolific scorer on domestic circuit. We also have B Sandeep and Sanjay Yadav, who scored heavily in the Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament last season. Most of them can squeeze in a couple of overs too. In addition, Manish Pandey must have grown in confidence after his performance for India even at No.6 Vijay Shankar will be motivated to perform. We have overseas players like Nabi, Marsh and Fabian Allan, who if they play to their potential can be unstoppable. Having said that, I think the strength of this side is its fielding ability. We could be the best fielding side in the tournament.
KANE AND ABLE: Kane is an integral part of the team. The way he led the team when Warner was banned was fantastic. He is a likeable character and the way he led and handled New Zealand after losing the World Cup final to England is phenomenal. Warner is also a great leader and we’re fortunate to have players with pedigree. All of them respect each other. Kane’s contribution to the side is invaluable.
BIG MATCH PLAYERS AND EMPTY STADIUMS: Most of the top players are internally driven. It’s true that energy from the stands will be missing and top players feed off that energy. But the reason they are great players is because they adapt quickly to conditions. In England [vs Windies and Pakistan] too all the players understood that situation and were just happy that they could play the game they love so much. They know people are watching, there’ll be a lot more viewers than before because there’s very little sport on at the moment. IPL is the most high profile tournament and I don’t think the quality or intensity they display will be diluted because the stadium is empty.
CHALLENGES OF A BUBBLE: The challenge for the support staff is to keep the players in a good space. All of us are confined to a bubble for the first time. One challenge all of us face is that life in a bubble can be monotonous. But I feel that players are aware that playing in IPL includes overcoming all odds. I say this with experience that a player encounters various issues which are out of one’s control. The way one addresses these issues is what makes him successful in his career or a series. To internally motivate and find a path that makes sure they do whatever it gets to succeed is the hallmark of a great player. The flip side is that team bonding is better than before.
STARS AND YOUNG TURKS: The synergy between the proven match-winners and young guns in the team is fantastic. As a mentor I’m proud of it. Cricket is a team sport where individuals contribute. But what I admire is that these seniors or match-winners actually take care of the youngsters. The youngsters are bound to be overawed sharing the dressing room with such big players. But we’re lucky to have such big players who make uncapped players feel comfortable. IPL is a platform for youngsters to watch and learn from big players and fortunately for us, we’ve had some good role models. A rewarding experience for all.
NEW SET OF COACHES: It’s a great opportunity to work with Trevor (Bayliss). He’s got a proven track record with Kolkata Knight Riders in IPL and with England in World Cup. In my conversations with him, I found him to be an amazing human being, quite unassuming. He makes sure that everyone around him is relaxed. He is making sure that players are under no pressure and helping them to approach the game with a free mind and display a fearless brand of cricket. It’s a new assignment for him but I’m sure he’ll find success. The same goes for Brad Haddin. I’ve known Brad for a very long time as a player and better when I had a knee surgery in Sydney in 2001. He’s very hard-working and a fierce competitor. They bring great value to the side.

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