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IPL: Lions, KKR square up on new turf as Suresh Raina returns to action

With just two league games left, neither team can afford to falter, Raina 15 short of 4,000 runs

cricket Updated: May 19, 2016 13:19 IST
Sharad Deep
Gujarat Lions skipper Suresh Raina will be expected to perform in front of his state crowd.
Gujarat Lions skipper Suresh Raina will be expected to perform in front of his state crowd. (AFP)

Big-hitting has become mandatory for all 11 players in the side in a Twenty20 game. This trend has been proving fruitful for the teams in the Indian Premier League this season with tailenders, especially bowlers, coming to the rescue at crucial junctures.

Gujarat Lions coach Brad Hodge picked all his tailenders to practice big-hitting for long on Wednesday as he went on tossing the ball up for seamers Praveen Kumar, Dale Steyn and Andrew Tye before repeating the same for all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo. Australian Hodge even seemed to be advising them about the range they need to hit, especially over the sight-screen.

HITTING CRUCIAL

“That’s what you expect from every player in the side, especially bowlers, as the T20 game is quite demanding in terms of hitting,” Hodge said. “Such hitting always remains crucial in slog overs and bowlers do get a chance to do it, so keeping them ready for this is a must.”

Caribbean and KKR all-rounder Jason Holder too likes big-hitting in such games. “It was altogether a different ball game for me when I last visited the venue during the ODI series, but this time big-hitting would make a difference here too,” Holder told HT before training on Wednesday.

Watching batsmen try to hit balls out of the park will be an attraction for the 33,000-odd spectators when their own Suresh Raina leads Gujarat Lions against former champions Kolkata Knight Riders in the first IPL match at the Green Park Stadium on Thursday night.

HOME RUN

It’s the final lap at least for six teams out of eight to finish among the top four. A loss here can prove fatal for Gujarat Lions and KKR although both are among the top four with 14 points each. Lions will play their last game against defending champions Mumbai Indians here on Saturday while KKR will face Sunrisers Hyderabad at home on Sunday.

Both teams suffered big losses in their previous game, against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Led by stand-in skipper Brendon McCullum, Lions suffered a record 144-run loss in Bengaluru while KKR were beaten by nine-wickets at Eden Gardens.

Raina, who needs 15 runs to become the first player to complete 4,000 runs in IPL, would love to make full use of the home advantage as he has the experience of scoring big runs on this well-rolled strip, where the batsman will have ample opportunity to dominate. Curator Shiv Kumar promised fireworks by the batsmen. “Last month, even in trial matches on this wicket, two centuries were scored,” he said.