Hyderabad: It’s that time of the year when cricket grounds around the country are all decked up and buzzing with activity. The IPL is here. All is set for thrills, frills and chills as the 10th edition of the annual carnival rolls out on Wednesday. By virtue of being defending champions, Sunrisers Hyderabad have the privilege of opening the proceedings at home against Royal Challengers Bangalore, the team they conquered in last year’s final.
The Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium will be packed to the rafters on Wednesday evening well before the game begins courtesy song and dance at a short opening ceremony.
Back to the game, David Warner and his men walk into the field with heads held high, probably wearing a champions badge on their shirts, but insist there is no pressure on them to defend their crown. The IPL is anybody’s game. A couple of hits here and a few cuts there and the best of the teams are soon bleeding.
On the home front, Warner and Shikhar Dhawan have huge responsibility of getting their team off to good starts — they did that with aplomb last year, but much water has flown under the bridge since. Yuvraj Singh, Kane Williamson, Ben Cutting and Moises Henriques are the other big bats who would be expected to rule the night in a game that is the first at home for the Eagles after winning the prestigious league.
For Chris Jordan, it’s an interesting switch. In the previous match of the IPL, the 2016 final, he was playing for RCB’s reds. This time around, he’ll be in an orange outfit. With no Fizz in the attack, the English quick has quite a responsibility to shoulder though alongside Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ashish Nehra for the hosts.
The visitors have a huge task on hand after losing their top two to injuries. The absence of Virat Kohli and devastating de Villiers — to shoulder and back injuries respectively — will certainly hurt but the Bangalore band boast of quite a few players who can drum up rhythm in stand-in captain Shane Watson and the entertaining Chris Gayle, who would be expected to hit their customary high notes.
The withdrawals of K. L. Rahul and the promising Sarfaraz Khan too should dent the RCB batting line-up but as seen over the years, the IPL has a knack of throwing up future stars with a fiery ambition to reach for the sky. Today is just the start....