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Matter over style

cricket Updated: Apr 24, 2008 03:12 IST
Arjun Sen
Arjun Sen
Hindustan Times
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Sport is often as unforgiving as it is rewarding.

It takes an instant for a player who is riding a wave of unprecedented success, to suddenly find himself swimming in the sea of mediocrity. No matter how big a player is, how revered he is, it all amounts to zilch if the style is not backed up with substance.

When the team lists of the IPL franchisees were out, the one that perhaps caught the most eyeballs, and attention, was Hyderabad. And with good reason too. Armed with arguably the most destructive batting line-up in the tournament, Hyderabad were suddenly being talked about and talked up as potential title contenders. In fact, on the eve of their first match against Kolkata, captain VVS Laxman was even asked if he thought Kolkata vs Hyderabad was a virtual final.

Even at practice in Kolkata, the players had this unmistakable air of confidence to them as they went about their drills and nets.

Cut to three days later, and what do we have? A group of players looking drained and disillusioned, both mentally and physically, as they prepare for their third game against Jaipur.

To call Hyderabad’s start to the IPL disappointing would probably be a massive understatement. Laxman’s team, after all, was where the intelligent money was on. With a batting line-up boasting of slam-bang stars like Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Shahid Afridi, Herschelle Gibbs and Scott Styris, the big hits were always going to flow from the team. It was, however, the bowling that was the cause of concern for coach Robin Singh and Laxman.

Two losses from two matches, the concern, it seems, has shifted. It has been the batting that has let Hyderabad down, and badly at that too. If against Kolkata, it was a minefield of a pitch, which, as Laxman said after the game, stifled the free flowing shots, it was a collective loss of reason against Delhi on Tuesday.

The Hyderabad bats, in truth, just haven’t got going. They have looked woefully out of touch, and out of sync, with the action.

Symonds, to put it kindly, has looked very uninterested in the two matches, and with him just being around for one more after Wednesday’s match against Jaipur, it would be a good time for the Aussie to show Hyderabad just why the big bucks were shelled out for him.

However, all is not lost, yet. Hyderabad have to get their house in order, and they better start doing that against Jaipur on Thursday. They might have had a bad start, but how they finish the IPL is what will really matter.

Jaipur on a high

It is always difficult to bounce back from a defeat, but if there is anyone who knows a thing or two about winning, it has to be Shane Warne. Arguably the greatest leg spinner, and one of the most colourful characters the game has ever seen, Warne has been able to rally his Jaipur team to perfection after that opening defeat against Delhi.

Inspired by a virtuoso show from the master, Jaipur beat Mohali in style to get in the groove. Jaipur might not have the big stars that Hyderabad possess, but there seems to be a team spirit and a sense of togetherness within the side.

They will be bolstered by the inclusion of South African skipper Graeme Smith, who likely to open the batting on the morrow along with Sohail Tanvir.