Hyderabad is a blast furnace. The heat had hit the roof by early evening, with liquids and energy drinks stocked in plenty near the nets. That Sunrisers Hyderabad opted for only a light training session was understandable.
Placed No. 3 in the table, Hyderabad are a point ahead of Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Pepsi IPL standings. As things stand, both teams can control their own fate. But at the end of Friday’s (May 15) clash, that privilege will be taken away from one of them. Of course, there are plenty of mathematical possibilities which mean both sides can still progress even if they win just one of their two remaining matches, but that will mean pinning their hopes on other results – a route both David Warner and Virat Kohli wouldn’t want to take.
There was a brief spike in interest surrounding Hyderabad till Wednesday evening. The news of Kevin Pietersen arriving on Friday for the final league game and possibly the playoffs created a buzz across cricketing circles. But a recurrence of an Achilles tendon injury meant the interest surrounding his participation was to drift away as fast as the fluffy clouds did on an oppressive summer’s evening.
Pietersen’s non-availability, however, could be a blessing in disguise for Hyderabad. What could have potentially meant a game on the bench for one of either Eoin Morgan or Trent Boult, given that Moises Henriques and Warner are definite starters barring injuries, could translate into another opportunity for the in-form duo ahead of the business end. That is, if the team management decides to persist with the winning combination.
There’s finally a sense of calm around the batting, and that they haven’t made wholesome changes in the second half of the league stage is a reflection of the confidence in the camp.
However, everything isn’t hunky dory. The form of Ishant Sharma remains a concern, but whether they try to compensate that by bringing in Ashish Reddy, the allrounder, is an answer that wasn’t too forthcoming from the net session.
Bangalore have borne the brunt of a punishing away schedule. They have probably gathered more air miles than sleep in the last few days. Friday’s game will be their fourth in seven days, as hard as it can get even taking into account modern-day scheduling.
The euphoria over their win against Mumbai Indians, made sweeter by an AB de Villiers special, died down less than 48 hours later as they were overwhelmed by Kings XI Punjab in Mohali. Another flight at the crack of dawn via Delhi meant there was more transit time than recovery time ahead of Friday’s clash. It wasn’t until late in the evening that Bangalore touched down.
As a result, the team didn’t train, but they have played here before and so will decide their team composition based on recent history. While the batting is unlikely to be tampered with, the team could explore bringing in an extra spinner in Iqbal Abdulla in place of S Arvind, with bigger boundaries coming to the aid of the tweakers.
In the past, the surface in Uppal has generally tended to be on the slower side, with totals around 145-150 being more than competitive. But this season, Hyderabad have posted totals of 192 and 185 in their two outings at home (the other home games were played in Visakhapatnam), and they haven’t been entirely comfortable defending them, which could perhaps prompt them to strengthen their bowling.
On the face of it, the prospect of watching Steyn v de Villiers, Bhuvneshwar v Gayle and Boult v Kohli is exciting. Which side translates potential into performance under pressure will make for riveting viewing.