Upbeat Sunrisers meet beleaguered Rajasthan Royals
It will be a real test of character for the beleaguered Rajasthan Royals when they face an upbeat Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 'Eliminator' of the Pepsi Indian Premier League here tomorrow.
Since the ugly revelations of the spot-fixing Scandal followed by the arrests of three of its players, including India international S Sreesanth, cricketing matters have taken a backseat for the champions of the first edition of the IPL.
One can expect the Sunrisers to be overwhelming favourites as they don't have to deal with the demons of an ugly controversy that has shaken the cricketing establishment.
For Rajasthan Royals and especially their skipper Rahul Dravid, it will be a challenge to go out in the field shedding inhibitions and perform to the best of their abilities.
For the Royals and their loyal band of supporters, a good performance at least can help them deflect the unwanted attention that is on them for the time being.
But there is no denying the fact that the team is under immense pressure. The two foundations of a good team: self belief and confidence in each other's abilities has been hit badly after the controversy.
Will Rahul Dravid have the same confidence when he hands over the ball to a particular bowler? Can he change the batting order randomly without having a crease on his forehead? These are question that will only be answered tomorrow.
Therefore, it wasn't surprising that the Royals management decided to have their last practice session ahead of the 'Eliminator' in Jaipur.
Since Jaipur-Delhi is less than an hour's flight, the squad will only arrive here in the evening. This ensures that media will be busy covering the high-profile first Qualifier between the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.
Talking about the cricketing aspects, Royals seem to have better balance as far as the overall composition of the side is concerned.
The Sunrisers, on the other hand, have been an unit that largely relied on its bowlers, including world's No 1 fast bowler Dale Steyn (18 wickets), leggie Amit Mishra (20) and all-rounder Thisara Perera (19 wickets and 222 runs).
Mishra, with good support from young leggie Karan Sharma, has been brilliant in the middle overs. Not only has Mishra been successful in stemming the flow of runs but also provided lot of breakthroughs with classical leg breaks and googlies.
Batting has been a real concern for the Sunrisers as none of their willow-wielders have been able to even tally a total of 300-runs in the league stage. Parthiv Patel (293 runs) has been their top-scorer but has only managed one half-century.
Shikhar Dhawan has made a decent comeback from injury with three 50's in nine games with a total of 278 runs but one expects more from the talented left-hander.
That he will be playing at the Feroze Shah Kotla -- a ground that he knows like the back of his palm -- would surely give him some confidence.
Thisara and Darren Sammy's role has been vital as their all-round abilities provide the side with necessary balance.
Sammy's two sixes helped Sunrisers get into the knock-outs as they made an easy chase look difficult. Odisha's Biplab Samantray has also come good in the last few games while Ishant Sharma has been, at best, inconsistent despite taking 14 wickets.
Rajasthan Royals has been a side that has been formidable at home with Shane Watson (513 runs and 11 wickets) being a premier performer.
Nearing 41, Dravid's intensity, integrity and passion for the team has been phenomenal as he has managed an impressive 416 runs with four 50s.
Ajinkya Rahane might have been dropped from the national squad but he hasn't disappointed either with 449 runs to his credit but would like to improve upon his strike-rate of 106.90.
Stuart Binny and Brad Hodge have made useful contributions and would like to continue the good work. Young Sanju Samson would also like to prove that he can perform in pressure situations as well.
The bowling attack is led by current 'Purple Cap' holder James Faulkner (26 wickets) and West Indies Kevon Cooper (17 wickets). Both of them have provided a lot of breakthroughs upfront with their clever swing bowling and variations.
But it will be a test of their zeal and fortitude as well even though Dravid is believes that "adversity helps to galvanise a side".
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Kumar Sangakkara (C), Cameron White, Akshat Reddy, Amit Mishra, Anand Rajan, Ankit Sharma, Ashish Reddy, Biplab Samantray, Cameron White, Chris Lynn, Dale Steyn, Darren Sammy, Ravi Teja, Hanuma Vihari, Ishant Sharma, Karan Sharma, Nathan McCullum, Pathiv Patel, Prasant Padmanabhan, Quinton de Cock, Sachin Rana, Shikhar Dhawan, Sudeep Tyagi, T Sargunam, Thisara Perera and Veer Pratap Singh.
Rajasthan Royals: Rahul Dravid (C), Ajinkya Rahane, Ashok Menaria, Brad Hodge, Brad Hogg, Dishant Yagnik, Fidel Edwards, Harmeet Singh, James Faulkner, Kevon Cooper, Kumar Boresa, Kushal Janith Perera, Owais Shah, Pravin Tambe, Rahul Shukla, Sachin Baby, Samuel Badree, Sanju Samson, Shane Watson, Shaun Tait, Shreevats Goswami, Sidharth Trivedi, Stuart Binny and Vikramjeet Malik.