Not given to showing much emotion, Tom Moody appeared no more than mildly satisfied at Mission One Accomplished, minutes after Sunrisers Hyderabad qualified for the main draw of the Champions League with a second clinical performance in as many nights. (Shikhar Dhawan credits Amit Mishra for win vs Faisalabad)
Having brushed Kandurata Maroons aside by eight wickets in their opening game, Hyderabad sealed their Champions League berth with a seven-wicket rout of Faisalabad Wolves at the PCA Stadium on Wednesday (September 18) night. "We respected that this qualifying stage was going to be a challenging one because we think that the teams that are in this stage are very competitive teams," said Moody, the Hyderabad coach. "They have a lot of experience. We knew that we had to be playing at our best which is never easy to do when you have had limited preparation time. But we have managed to hit the ground running, which is really pleasing."
Shikhar Dhawan, the new captain, has led from the front, and Moody was unstinting in his praise of the left-hand opening batsman. "He has done a good job," he said. "At the end of the day, it is still very early on. He is going to blossom every single game that he plays. I thought his leadership today was excellent. The positive thing about Shikhar is that whether he is captaining or whether he is batting, he constantly wants to improve. He is always asking questions, he is always wanting to develop his game and himself. From a coaching point of view, it is a pleasure to work with people who have that open mind and are prepared to grow as people."
Hyderabad had scrapped and battled and won ugly through to the playoffs in the IPL, but have looked a more formidable batting outfit this time around, fortified by the presence throughout the competition of Dhawan, who missed the early part of the IPL through a fractured finger, and JP Duminy, who missed the entire tournament. "I don't think the team is stronger, I think we are playing in completely different situations," Moody said. "What's the pleasing thing for me is that we as a team managed to develop our game around the conditions we were playing in (during the IPL). The conditions that we are playing out here are completely different to what we faced most of the time during the IPL. Those were slow wickets, it favoured the spinners. So we adapted our side, I thought we adapted our side well to play that type of competitive, scrappy cricket, hence us finding ourselves in the top four.
"This is a different brand of cricket, batsmen can go out there and dominate against pace and spin and the pleasing thing is that we have now managed to show the other side of the Sunrisers, that we can match with the faster-paced game and a higher scoring game. In both innings, we have still had some fuel in the tank to get whatever total that is required. (Misbah bemoans lack of IPL-style exposure)
"There is no doubt having Shikhar Dhawan available for all the matches is an incredible bonus. You are talking about a world-class batsman, his form over the past 12 months or so has been as good as anyone in world cricket. Certainly when he comes in to the top of the order, you are a better side, there is no doubt about that. JP definitely adds a different versatility to our side because he bowls offspin and complements the two legspinners we have got. We probably are a slightly better side, but I thought we were a pretty competitive side in the IPL as well."
Hyderabad have benefited from two big partnerships at the top of the tree - 121 in the first game and 68 in the second - between Dhawan and Parthiv Patel. While that has set up convincing victories, it has also left the middle order slightly undercooked. "It's a fine balance. You don't want to rock something that's working," Moody said when asked if a possible rejig was on the cards for the final game against Otago Volts on Friday. "We will put some thought to it but your top order is so important in Twenty20 cricket and whilst they are batting well, it is important to keep them going with their confidence, to continue to grow in that confidence in the main draw of the tournament.
"We will look at various things, we will look at how a lot of the players pull up tomorrow morning. If anyone has any stiffness or has any question mark over them at all, we will definitely not hesitate to rotate a little bit but again, we want to win on the 20th. We would like to win our three games in the qualifying stage to continue that momentum into the main competition."
The real deal, Moody admitted, was what lay ahead. "That's the whole idea of the tournament. It's nice to know that now, we have an opportunity to play in the main tournament and it again will be a step up for us, challenge-wise," he said. "The advantage is that we have played some cricket together as a team in the past few days. We obviously have another game on the 20th, so our preparation, given that we have qualified for the main draw, is second to none. We have had some pressure cricket and our batsmen and bowlers have had time out in the middle which you can't buy."