Hyderabad: These were the top two teams last year and had fittingly contested the final. Now, only one is keeping form and sitting at the summit. The other is languishing in the bottom half, having slipped down to the sixth spot. Defending champions Chennai Super Kings are on a roll as they look to storm the struggling Sunrisers’ home ground on Wednesday.
Led by master tactician Mahendra Singh Dhoni, CSK come into the match on the back of four consecutive victories while SRH have three straight losses, including two humiliating ones at home, to deal with. They would be desperate to win this one at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium and exact revenge though.
Tough ask, going by the depth of respective sides. While Chennai are well-entrenched, Hyderabad have been struggling to get their middle order going — Vijay Shankar has scored 132 runs in seven games at an average of 22, Manish Pandey has 54 in six, Deepak Hooda 47 in six and Yusuf Pathan a mere 32 in the six games that he has played so far. Barring openers David Warner and Jonny Bairstow, there’s not much batting to talk about.
On the other hand, CSK have a strong top order in Shane Watson, Faf du Plessis, Suresh Raina and A.T. Rayudu, followed by Kedar Jadhav, Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja solidifying the middle order.
The game also throws up an engrossing match-up between a ruffled Rayudu and Vijay Shankar, the man who pipped the former to the No.4 spot in India’s World Cup side that was announced on Monday. It would be interesting to see Shankar bowl to the Hyderabad-bred Rayudu, should he make the side that is — Shankar is yet to take a wicket and has been below par with the bat so far.
Having done well in previous match against Delhi Capitals, left-arm seamer Khaleel Ahmed should keep his place and share the new ball with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, buoyed by a place in the World Cup side.
Rashid Khan would be expected to spin a web while Sandeep Sharma needs to pull his socks up.
Dhoni will once again rely on his 40-year-young spinner Imran Tahir, who brings in so much enthusiasm and could be a handful along with seamers Deepak Chahar and Shardul Thakur and slow bowlers Jadeja and Mitchell Santner.
All said, the match is crucial for the Sunrisers. Could it be rejuvenation? Or slow death.