Shed a few tears for David Warner and his bunch of fighters. It was not fair on them. They did not even get a decent chance to fight it out in the eliminator.
The score of 128 was low alright, but the low score itself created interesting possibilities. The tension is usually more dense and the competition more fierce in such matches. They turn into a test of grit as well as of skill under high pressure. Cricket is at its best when runs don’t come easy and batsmen have to earn every run.
Allowed the full go, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) could have turned the tables on Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). Sub-130 scores have been defended earlier, at least nine times in the history of the Indian Premier League (IPL). This season, Kolkata had defended 131 on their home turf, the Eden Gardens, by bowling out Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) for a meagre 49. The pitch at M Chinnaswamy stadium in Bengaluru, as scores this season reveal, is no more a batsman’s paradise. It has slowed down considerably making free scoring difficult. And the Sunrisers are a terrific bowling unit, good enough to make any batting order sweat.
Now, this is not to begrudge the Knight Riders their victory. They won it fair and square. Their bowling performance was outright brilliant, and they could not have helped if it rained. They still had to score 48 runs in adverse conditions and scoring at eight runs per over was never easy. They probably could have made a cakewalk of the target, were they chasing 129 in 20 overs. Yet there’s something about the Hyderabad team that makes one feel for them.
Maybe it is their understated approach. Maybe it is the touch of dignity with which they go about their game. One would still like to believe they are the underdogs despite the fact that they won the tournament last season. They look vulnerable, unlike some others in the league. Even when you back at them wholeheartedly, there’s the lurking fear of the team losing you cannot help avoid. That makes their victories sweet and exciting.
As a team, the Sunrisers don’t intimidate the way Mumbai Indians, RCB and KKR do. Unlike others, they don’t have too many powerhouse performers whose grand reputation matches performance not infrequently. Warner delivers, but he is not quite an AB de Villiers or Chris Gayle or Virat Kohli or Kieron Pollard when it comes to blistering style. Shikhar Dhawan’s batting carries the air of fallibility. Yuvraj Singh, breath-taking as he may be on his day, is not the Yuvraj of yore. Subdued, unobtrusive and mostly silent, he perhaps exemplifies the team best.
There’s certain likability about the team which makes you root for Sunrisers every time they enter the field. There’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the fast bowler who is most unlike a fast bowler in his bearing and there’s Rashid Khan, the cuddly import from Afghanistan, who does a clinical demolition job with his leg spinners. Both bowling spearheads for the team in their own departments present personalities that are in sync with that of the lead batters. The combination of such players and the way they go about their job gives the team a refreshing character.
By now, there should be no doubt left that one is a Team Hyderabad fan. But one is a Knight Riders fan too. It’s too risky to have one favourite team in the IPL. It’s too much of an emotional investment. If the team does badly you are left with no choice. It is not a happy situation when both favourites clash to eliminate each other.
The best you can expect is a fair match where both sides get a chance to play to their full potential. Sunrisers were denied that by the rain. One hopes the other favourite goes the distance.