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IPL 10 Eliminator: Hyderabad v Kolkata

Wisden India logo Wisden India 17-05-2017
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There has been only one washout the whole of the Indian Premier League 2017. It was the Royal Challengers Bangalore v Sunrisers Hyderabad at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium on April 25. Hyderabad didn’t know at the time that the shared points would haunt them in their qualification process for the playoffs, but finally overcame that hurdle by the skin of their teeth.

The rain and no-play, however, have led to a predicament for Hyderabad, and it could play a part when they take on Kolkata Knight Riders in the Eliminator on a tricky Bangalore pitch on Wednesday (May 17) night. It has to do with the relaid Bangalore pitch, which has been one of the toughest to score big on, on the evidence of the games in the IPL so far. Had Hyderabad played that game against Bangalore, win or lose they would have had the chance to assess the signs. Now, all they have is time for a brief recce, a suggestion or two and an educated guess, at best.

Kolkata, on the other hand, played a game on the same pitch as the one to be used for the big game, and registered a six-wicket win over Bangalore. Hyderabad could have perhaps played down the advantage that experience gives Kolkata, but that win came with 29 balls to spare. It was also the one that witnessed Chris Lynn and Sunil Narine bludgeon a record 105 runs in the Power Play overs.

Rest assured, a repeat of such audacious hitting from the Kolkata opening pair will be tough against a bowling unit of Hyderabad’s calibre, but even a semblance of that blitz at the top should be enough to dent the opposition come match day.

The unsettling part for Hyderabad is that if and when they draw the curtains on the Lynn-Narine show, they have the likes of Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey and a few other quality batsmen to keep at bay.

The task doesn’t seem entirely impossible given the spongy nature of the pitch and the quality of Hyderabad’s bowling, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy either.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar (the highest wicket-taker in the tournament so far with 25 scalps), Rashid Khan, Siddarth Kaul and Mohammad Siraj have all executed their roles with some consistency throughout the tournament. Also Mohammad Nabi has been the most economical bowler for Hyderabad in the three games he has played. Incidentally, Nabi, who has played whenever there have been enough left-handers in the opposition, is nursing an injured finger but he should be available for selection.That brings us to another one of Hyderabad’s dilemmas. Do they stick with Nabi or do they bring in Kane Williamson? If his bowling finger has healed, Nabi should be effective on this pitch. But Williamson’s ability to score irrespective of the nature of the surface should surely be taken into consideration before naming the XI.

If Williamson gets a look-in, the stability he brings to the middle can be balanced by the possible return of the fiery Yuvraj Singh. Yuvraj, recovering from a sore finger after copping a blow on the field earlier, will go through a fitness test on Tuesday and is likely to be available. That could mean either Vijay Shankar or Deepak Hooda hit the dug-out route.

Vijay scored a match-winning 63 not out in a crucial contest for Hyderabad against Gujarat Lions in their last game. Hooda hasn’t done anything of note this season. Seems like a pretty straightforward decision to make there if it comes to one or the other.

There will be some juggling in their middle-order, but as far as Hyderabad’s top order is concerned, there are no concerns. David Warner has been in tremendous form, which has propelled him to the top of the run-getters’ list this season with 604 runs from 13 games with a century and four half-centuries. Shikhar Dhawan – Warner’s opening partner – hasn’t been as consistent as he would have liked to be, but 468 runs at an average of 39 isn’t shabby at all. Moises Henriques at No. 3 hasn’t looked too bad either.

On the Kolkata side of things, there aren’t many selection calls to make given how balanced the side looks at the moment. The only chink has been Yusuf Pathan, and Piyush Chawla could be the answer to that issue on this surface. The other option is to drop Ankit Rajpoot, who bowled well in the previous game, and replace the seamer with Chawla’s legbreaks, meaning Yusuf gets another chance to wield his ageing long-handle.

There are some tough calls to be made and both the teams have shown enough good sense over the last many days, and years, to be certain to make the right decision in a crunch situation such as this. But sometimes pedigree alone isn’t enough. Instinct, teamwork, the heart of a champion and a dash of luck is what it takes to move one step closer to Promised Land.

Head-to-head record

Played 11. Hyderabad 4. Kolkata 7.

This is the first time the two teams are playing at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.

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