Their shadows are so strong that Delhi Capitals and Sunrisers Hyderabad will have to leave them in the dressing rooms of the YS Rajasekhara Reddy Stadium in Visakhapatnam when they square up against one another in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Eliminator on Wednesday. Their ability to be in the present and have those in the field deliver winning performances will be on test.
There can be no doubt that Delhi Capitals’ paceman Kagiso Rabada (25 wickets) and Sunrisers Hyderabad openers David Warner (692 runs) and Jonny Bairstow (445 runs) have been such standout performers that their absence can be telling. Yet, the two teams will have to gather themselves to the non-availability of their stars and deliver to potential.
Both teams have players of quality, many of whom who have a rich history of playing at the highest level and will realise that they can collectively challenge the best sides in the competition on any given day. It can be a keen contest if both sides turn up with the intensity that is expected of teams expecting to make a run to Sunday’s final.
The team from the North will take the field with as many as three batsmen, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant having the weight and the assurance of 400-plus runs backing them. Sunrisers Hyderabad’s most prolific batsman on view in Visakhapatnam will be Manish Pandey who now has 314 runs under his belt. Vijay Shankar has scored 95 runs fewer in 14 games.
The Delhi Capitals bowling was dependent on Kagiso Rabada as the key wicket-taker. When you look at the rest of the pack, only Chris Morris (13) and Ishan Sharma (10) have managed to breach the double-figures. On the contrary, Sunrisers Hyderabad attack has as many as four bowlers who have at least 10 wickets this season, including Khaleel Ahmed with 17 from eight games.
On the captaincy front, Kane Williamson would weigh in heavier than Shreyas Iyer but there is so little that a leader can do when his middle-order batsmen are out in search of touch, let alone middling form. The captaincy angle and the twists that skippers can bring into the game, even a T20 game, come into play only when all elements of a team click in unison.
Delhi Capitals have won five away games while Sunrisers Hyderabad, who claimed victory in Delhi and tied in Mumbai before losing in the Super Over, do not have such a glorious record of playing in conditions that are not entirely their own. This could become a major factor but only if the teams read the track well.
And that is possibly one area that Sunrisers Hyderabad may be adept at, given that the YS Rajasekhara Reddy Stadium has been their second home ground in the past. But it has been a while since they played in Visakhapatnam and that ‘home’ advantage may not be as strong as it may sound.
There is an aura that Delhi Capitals have worked hard to acquire this season with their batting. Sunrisers Hyderabad bowlers can possibly try hard and stifle the team from the national Capital, but their own batsmen will have to engineer a dramatic transformation in their fortunes to gain an upper-hand even against a lesser attack.
Sunrisers Hyderabad will be hard pressed to breach Delhi Capitals but that can happen if their bowlers apply all the pressure they possibly can and their batsmen, for once, play smart cricket to be able to convert that slight advantage that their attack can lend the team. It is a question of a couple of batsmen deciding to bat through the innings. Sensibly.
As for Delhi Capitals, they will have to bring on their A game to set up the match with Chennai Super Kings for a place in the final. Their batsmen will have to ensure that they back up their bowlers with a performance that is in keeping with the reputation that they have acquired as the most improved team this season.
If there is one thing that can go against Delhi Capitals, it will be their eagerness to show that they belong in the play-offs. Their last appearance in the playoffs was in 2012 when they topped the league as Delhi Daredevils but lost two opportunities to make it to the final. The desperation to win this Eliminator and the Qualifier2 can weigh the team down.
It is in this area that coach Ricky Ponting and mentor Sourav Ganguly’s work will be cut out. They will have to get the players treat this as just another game and not be overawed by the enormity of what they have achieved thus far. For Delhi Capitals, the task will be to embrace the positive approach that has helped them get to this stage.
On the contrary, Sunrisers Hyderabad’s coach Tom Moody and mentor VVS Laxman will have to inspire their players to erase memories of a stuttering campaign and perform to potential in this one game so that they live to fight another day. With a bunch of professionals who have played at the highest level, that should not be a tough ask.
Having said that, it would be a travesty if this match is reduced to one which is decided by which of the teams misses their star performers less. Will Delhi Capitals miss Rabada’s strike power with the cricket ball more than Sunrisers Hyderabad long for David Warner and Jonny Bairstow? It would be wonderful if those playing deliver their best and make the contest worth tracking.