Turf of doom has Chargers in tough spot

 The Rajiv Gandhi International stadium in Uppal has done various different home teams very little favours. India are yet to win an international fixture here, Hyderabad have a modest record at this ground, and the Deccan Chargers haven’t tasted success in 10 attempts in the Indian Premier League and the Champions League put together.

Normally, teams enjoy the prospect of playing on their own patch, in front of their own fans, hoping to ride on the groundswell of support and familiarity with conditions. Which is exactly why the lack of success of India, South Zone, Hyderabad and Deccan Chargers at the Uppal stadium is hard to explain. Mohammad Azharuddin has associated the word ‘morose’ with the ground, others have invoked words such as ‘vaastu’ and ‘bad vibes’ but from a cricketing perspective, there is no logical explanation for away teams holding sway.

India have lost all three one-dayers here, South Zone couldn’t defend nearly 600 runs season before last in the Duleep Trophy final against West Zone when Yusuf Pathan was dropped a million times, and Hyderabad have been beaten in one-day cricket by even Goa. In the Ranji Trophy, the hosts’ remarkable nine-wicket win over Mumbai in December 2006 is almost an aberration, because otherwise, they have been outplayed by all and sundry, either beaten outright or conceding the first-innings lead.

It is this trend, not to mention their own indifferent start, that the Deccan Chargers must buck when they play Royal Challengers Bangalore on Thursday in their third match of IPL IV. Beaten by the Rajasthan Royals and conquered by the Kolkata Knight Riders, the Chargers are well aware of the of the challenge ahead.

They can expect not too much by way of vociferous crowd support. Last Saturday’s match against the Royals was the Chargers’ first IPL outing in Uppal since season one – IPL II was held in South Africa and the Hyderabad outfit played all its games in IPL III outside the state due to the Telangana agitation – but the stadium was no more than half full, the fans seemingly unexcited by Kumar Sangakkara and his men.

That there is no huge local, Hyderabadi flavour to the team doesn’t help, either. However sporadically he was played, VVS Laxman still brought the crowds to the ground with his classicism till last season. This team is almost entirely devoid of local talent – only Pragyan Ojha and DB Ravi Teja played against KKR – and therefore, they have no option but to overturn their record here.

Hyderabadis have traditionally thronged IPL matches not so much to back the home team as enjoy the skills of the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Kieron Pollard. Their general apathy, coupled with their own poor record at the ground, are twin challenges Sangakkara must goad his team into overcoming if they are to emulate their deeds of 2009, when they went all the way to the title in South Africa.

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