IPL 2019: Sunrisers Hyderabad coach Tom Moody picks his favourites for World Cup 2019
Tom Moody’s Sunrisers Hyderabad have made a bright start to the IPL season, with David Warner making a great return to the side -- scoring two 50s and an unbeaten century in three matches -- after the Australia opener’s one-year ban for ball-tampering. It has also been about Bhuvneshwar Kumar finding his death-over bowling best after infrequent appearances with the India team.
In this interview, the former all-rounder, who was part of Australia’s 1987 and 1999 World Cup wins, and took Sri Lanka to the 2007 final as coach, sees India and hosts England as front-runners for the upcoming edition in the UK. However, he feels how teams handle Afghanistan would be interesting.
Moody also talks about the challenge T20 franchise league has thrown up for international cricket, Australia’s ODI revival, Warner’s comeback and Virat Kohli’s captaincy challenges with Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Three matches on, have SRH settled down in this IPL?
We had a good lead up preparing for this year. Everyone seems to be relatively fit. Kane (Williamson) still has a little bit of an issue with his shoulder, but is not far away from being fully fit. That has got to be the priority, for New Zealand cricket’s World Cup aspirations. We feel comfortable we have a squad that is flexible to make adjustments, be it injury or match-ups in terms of opposition. And leadership, Bhuvi has taken over (for Williamson) and done seamlessly. He may not have had a lot of captaincy experience but is an astute individual. So, he has taken to it like duck to water.
Warner and Bairstow have hit the ground running. Pleasantly surprised?
Warner I’m not surprised because he is one of the most determined sportsmen I have come across. His drive and focus is second to none. Maybe I was not quite expecting him to come out of the blocks sprinting like he has, but I’m certainly not surprised he has got runs. He is world class and has all the attributes to deliver.
How tough was it for Warner returning with IPL set as the tournament for World Cup selection for him and Steve Smith?
It would be an enormous challenge for anyone and it takes huge resilience and character to be able to move forward. We all accept what happened in Cape Town is unacceptable, something we don’t want to see in the game. But it is important we forgive as well. To be fair, they have done more than their share of time out. You could argue the penalty was exceptionally harsh, considering historically what happened with high-profile cricketers that have been caught in the act. But we have moved on. The cricketing public has forgiven them as well. The response Davey is getting wherever he goes, people are welcoming him back with open arms. He is making it very easy for them as well with the way he is playing.
Is Warner consciously trying to change his aggressive approach?
It’s a question you have to ask him, but my observation is that he has learnt a lot about himself, the game and what it means to him. You can clearly see he has missed playing at the highest level. Cricket, or sport for that matter, is unique as there is a small window where you can play at the highest level… the last thing you want to do is sit and watch people play for a year.
Bhuvi seems to be struggling, especially in the death overs.
Firstly, Bhuvi hasn’t had regular cricket. He has been with the Indian team but not played regularly. If you are picking your best team, he is pretty much in your eleven. Then it is very hard to get the consistency in performance. That is what we are seeing now; those little fine-tuning of skills can get a little exposed. I’m anticipating as the tournament goes, he is going to get better and better. That suits us because it is very hard to stay on top of your game, day in and day out, for the whole tournament. The three games we played were high-scoring. The bowlers aren’t going to bowl their four overs for 25 runs picking two wickets. They are going to go for eight plus an over, and if you are responsible for two death overs, that is going to blow up beyond that.
Bairstow-Warner opening pair has clicked.
It was a conscious effort because Jonny gave us flexibility with regard to the wicket-keeping role. So we have the ability to play an overseas player who can hold down that position and also a player that is right-handed. We have historically had a very strong opening partnership. Shikhar Dhawan and Davey (Warner), that ticked along at a different tempo. Given that Shikhar has moved to Delhi, we saw that as an opportunity to look at the change of that balance.
How do you look at the Australian ODI team’s transformation?
The team has welcomed that they are away from home. They can play without the scrutiny of every step and breath. This has been a very difficult summer for the team because not only the media, but the whole of Australia, on the back of what happened (ball-tampering in the Cape Town Test), was very conscious of what the team did on and off the field. Being away from home and having a chance to play with freedom without that scrutiny, a little bit of momentum and confidence had gathered. And camaraderie, when you are challenged with circumstances, the Australian team has at times, if you have the right characters, become stronger, not weaker.
Warner and Smith are of a different calibre, but can it be a challenge to pick the World Cup squad comparing performances in T20 leagues and internationals?
Warner and Smith are a different category and have shown that over the last five years in all formats. They have been the backbone of Australian cricket. (But) you need to put into perspective the way you are scoring, who you are scoring against, what conditions. Once you put all those things in the mix and decide what personnel, characters, balance you want, you got to bite the bullet and make those decisions. But as I see it, Smith and Warner, it is a given if they are fit, if you are wanting to win a World Cup, they are very much going to front for us.
ICC has concerns about finding the balance between international and franchise cricket.
It is very difficult. I can understand ICC looking at that but when you got players like Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Shane Watson, they are removed (from national teams) due to retirements, or retirements forced on them. They are freelance cricketers. The beauty of leagues around the world is they allow them to continue playing at a high level. Watson has come out of playing the Pakistan Super League and he was Player-of-the-Series.
What is the challenge in captaining the national team and IPL? Virat Kohli led India to Test and ODI series wins in Australia, but RCB have started poorly.
It is hard to answer because I haven’t captained either. But I coached both. The challenges are that with international cricket, it is a marathon. You can put processes in place that can make a difference in 18 months time -- training habits, culture of the playing group, many things you can do that have long-term benefits. In franchise cricket, it is very much immediate and is completely dynamic. You have to have the clarity of role identification and communication from the start. The nature of T20 is you can play a good game and lose by one run, miss a catch, run out, which costs you the game. Or you can have the experience Delhi Capitals had last night, a complete capitulation.
Have global T20 leagues put pitch conditions out of the equation? There is no talk about that ahead of the World Cup?
Conditions have gone out of the equation because of two reasons. One, what we have seen in ODI cricket in England in recent times, high scoring contests. The second is, forget the wickets, it is more about the balls. The balls they are using in ODI cricket, there is a very narrow window where a quality bowling attack is going to take advantage of swing or seam movement because the ball is pretty restricted with that.
What are your top four teams for the World Cup?
The standouts are India and England. They are absolute certainties to be in the top four. What is exciting about this World Cup is a number of sides can easily find themselves in third and fourth positions. Australia, South Africa, New Zealand and West Indies -- I don’t think people thought of them 12 months ago. Windies are a serious threat, particularly if someone like Sunil Narine comes back into the equation.
The other exciting thing is the interest and intrigue around what Afghanistan are going to do. I don’t care who you are in this tournament, you are going to be on watch when you play Afghanistan.
How will SRH tackle players leaving for World Cup?
To what extent, we’re not fully sure. The Afghanistan boys (spinners Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi) may play longer. Bairstow has to report back to England on April 26. Warner is going to be more in the beginning of May… We are not dramatically affected. I can say out of the 23 we have, I could put down 10 different teams that I reckon we can debate whether one is better than the other.
Do you back more technology after Malinga’s last delivery no-ball against RCB?
I don’t disagree, but what frustrates me a little bit is we only see the highlighted no-balls when there is an incident like that. Probably there were half a dozen no-balls bowled in the game that were not even looked at. There is no doubt more technology can enable the umpires to make the right decisions. It is the administration’s job to work through that. But we are also mindful that we don’t slow down the game too much.