New Delhi: Suresh Raina versus Yuvraj Singh. Or think of Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier. Or the Don and Harold Larwood, Sachin Tendulkar and Shoaib Akhtar, Bjorn Borg against John McEnroe, Prakash Padukone versus Lim Swie King. Confrontations of the past of titanic proportions. Qualifier 2 of IPL’s ninth season at the Kotla here on Friday, to decide who meets Royal Challengers Bangalore for the title, has Raina and Yuvraj in a friendly face-off. Who will be more influential on the day could well determine the fate of the game.
There is more. Aussie powerhouses David Warner leading the Eagles against Aaron Finch of the Lions for example. Mustafizur ‘The Fizz’ Rahman versus Dale Steyn (possibly), Shikhar Dhawan and Brendon McCullum, Moises Henriques against Dwayne Bravo. The list of such mouth-watering rivalries runs up and down the order. These are of course, side shows, but can be often more gripping than the actual outcome. Yet, it will require a collective effort of the kind Hyderabad turned in here against Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday to decide the finalists, a seamless weave of all three disciplines that will differentiate winner from loser.
At least on two fronts, the Sunrisers are marginally ahead. They have had a feel of conditions here when KKR were sandbagged by the pitch, the dual nature of which tempted more than one of the Knights into indiscretion and dismissal. The other, less tangible factor will be how much the Lions have recovered from the loss to RCB in Bengaluru on Tuesday. Having had Virat Kohli’s men down at 23/5 and then letting the game slip out of their hands will have been a soul-searing experience for Raina’s side. Have they recovered composure sufficiently will be one of the keys to Friday’s virtual semi-final.Having said that, it also promises to be a battle between the Eagles’ incisive pace — even minus the injured Asish Nehra — and the depth of the Lions’ batting line-up. Between them Hyderabad’s Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mustafizur and Barinder Sran have picked up 50 wickets.
And while Warner and Dhawan aggregate over 1,100 runs at the top of the order for the Eagles, the Lions’ top four of Finch, McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Raina have scored almost 300 runs more. Hyderabad have looked too dependant on four of five batsmen, while Raina can look as far down the order as Bravo batting at seven and even beyond to boost the total. On Wednesday, Warner used his quicks, particularly Bhuvneshwar and Mustafizur, to stifle the KKR batting, which eventually cracked under the mounting run rate. On the other side, Dhawal Kulkarni’s four wickets against the Royal Challengers will have come as a huge boost for Raina.
But returning to the early theme, how Yuvraj and Raina perform could have far-reaching consequences on the course of the match. Yuvraj showed much of his swagger with the bat is back, which in turn has picked up his fielding. New daddy Raina for his part will want to match his old friend, who could otherwise take the match away very quickly....