IPL 2021: Delhi cannot afford to take Hyderabad lightly
T20 cricket can throw up surprises and it would be imprudent to pass a verdict on the outcome prematurely
After a disastrous first phase which saw them languish at the bottom of the points table before the Indian Premier League (IPL) got suspended, Sunrisers Hyderabad’s first opponents in the second phase are the second-placed Delhi Capitals.
On the face of it, this might seem like a gross mismatch. But T20 cricket can throw up surprises and it would be imprudent to pass a verdict on the outcome prematurely.
For instance, the seventh-placed Kolkata Knight Riders — so tentative in the first phase of the tournament — made a clinical demolition of the third-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore. From the time Virat Kohli was dismissed, KKR took control and completely dominated the match until the winning stroke was hit.
All teams in the league are evenly matched. The disparity in talent is not so much as to make results predictable. That has been the charm and USP of the IPL.
Mumbai Indians have won five titles, while Delhi Capitals, RCB and Punjab Kings have yet to win their first. It doesn’t speak as much about talent as it does about tactics, coaching drills, mental make-up of players and team ethos.
In fact, barring the first half of the IPL 2021, Sunrisers, the 2016 champions, have been among the better performing teams in the IPL — with a bit of luck, they could have had at least one more title in their kitty.
For some quirky reason, they slumped badly in April, losing five out of six matches to land in this precarious situation.
Repeated defeats led to disenchantment in the franchise’s management and the captaincy was taken away from batting mainstay, David Warner.
The classy Kane Williamson, who led New Zealand to victory in the World Test Championship final against India, took charge and SRH will be looking to him to turn things around, as a batsman and even more as a leader.
The second phase will see SRH without the services of big striking England openers, Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy.
But despite their absence, the team still have some very talented players. Though the top order looks vulnerable, opportunities have opened up for domestic players Manish Pandey, Priyam Garg, Kedar Jadhav and Vijay Shankar.
All-rounders Jason Holder, Mohammad Nabi and Abhishek Sharma give the lower order heft.
Bowling is SRH’s strong suit.
Leg spinner Rashid Khan has the matchless wicket-taking ability and Williamson will be leaning on him most for breakthroughs.
Two other Afghans, Nabi and Mujeeb ur Rahman are in the spin support cast. Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, T Natarajan, Khaleel Ahmed, Siddarth Kaul, Basil Thampi and Sandeep Warrier make for a rich and diverse line-up of domestic fast bowlers who can’t be taken lightly.
Delhi, finalists last season, performed scintillatingly in the first phase of the season, winning six matches out of eight to finish top of the table when the tournament got suspended.
Delhi are without Chris Woakes who has excused himself this time along with a clutch of England players but will be strengthened by the return of stroke player Shreyas Iyer.
The captaincy remains with Rishabh Pant for the sake of continuity, but Iyer, as batsman and part of the leadership group, has a major role to play.
Blazing batting by Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan made them the most dreaded opening pair in the league. But that is only a fraction of the problems for the rival teams, for other batsmen and all-rounders in the squad are Steve Smith, Iyer, Pant, Ajinkya Rahane, Marcus Stoinis, Shimron Hetmyer, Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin.
Delhi’s bowling is formidable too. In the pace department, apart from the South African duo of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, veterans Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, there is also young Avesh Khan who was the pick of the lot in the first phase of the season.
More crucial to the team’s fortunes on UAE pitches would be Axar, Amit Mishra and Ashwin who has been included in India’s squad for the T20 World Cup and will be looking to hit top form.
Ayaz Memon is an Indian sports writer and commentator
Delhi vs Hyderabad
6pm UAE Time
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