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Now or never for Hyderabad

Jaipur will have to put their defeat to Mumbai behind and clinch a victory against Hyderabad, reports Arjun Sen.

cricket Updated: May 09, 2008 01:57 IST
Arjun Sen

With all the big-name teams and big-game players, the side that can stay the fittest over the 44 days may well claim the IPL.

Exhausting travel schedules, the often-unbearable heat and back-to-back matches in different parts of the country, the players are sure having to work hard. Most players may be supremely fit, but such a whirlwind tour will undoubtedly take a heavy toll on them. As the competition enters its second leg, the teams with larger squads and fitter personnel are likely to have a head start in the race for the semifinals.

Jaipur outdid everybody's expectations, including maybe, even themselves, by reaching the top, and staying there, with hardly the kind of big names their rivals can boast of.

Their capitulation against Mumbai on Wednesday, however, would have served as a massive reality check for Shane Warne's boys and they know all their good work will amount to zilch if they don't get back to winning ways.

Jaipur will look to do just that when they face Hyderabad who have more than a few problems of their own.

It won't be easy, though. With two matches in two days, squad rotation could be high on Warne's to-do list. The batting collapse against Mumbai could prompt a shake up in the playing XI and, hopefully for the hosts, a quick return to form.

Form is exactly what the Hyderabad players would be looking to strike, too. The first leg didn't go quite according to plan for V.V.S. Laxman and his men, and though they are not completely out of it just yet, they certainly will be with a loss on Friday. The visitors are fresh off a convincing win over Chennai, only their second, and will desperately hope it is the start of a good run.

While the primary reason for Hyderabad's win at the M.A. Chidambaram was stand-in skipper Adam Gilchrist's inspired captaincy, the big-name batting line-up finally showed signs of hitting form. While Kiwi Scott Styris batted with a lot of authority, Shahid Afridi finally hit a few over the boundary, and not down the throat of fielders. The bowlers too revelled in the belief Gilchrist showed in them, keeping the Chennai batting on a tight leash almost right through the innings. With Laxman yet to take a call on taking the field on Friday, Gilchrist may have to take over the reins yet again.

Irrespective of who leads the team, the job for Hyderabad is simple. It's now or never.

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