Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting believes Sunrisers Hyderabad perfectly balanced their tournament management during the 2017 Indian Premier League season and are peaking at the right time going into the Eliminator match vs Kolkata Knight Riders in Bangalore on Wednesday.
With four wins from their last six matches to end the group stage, Sunrisers Hyderabad look to be the most in-form team heading into the play-offs.
SRH face Kolkata Knight Riders in a must win game. The winning team faces Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 2 match on May 19, a virtual semifinal.
Group toppers Mumbai Indians had lost the Qualifier 1 match against Rising Pune Supergiant by 20 runs at Wankhede Stadium on Tuesday. Rising Pune Supergiant await the winner of Qualifier 2 match in the final of IPL 2017 to be played at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad on May 21.
Ricky Ponting, who won the 2013 IPL final with Mumbai Indians, expects it to be tough for Kolkata Knight Riders to beat Sunrisers Hyderabad, a team that is “playing their best cricket now”.
Speaking to cricket.com.au, Ricky Ponting highlighted how Sunrisers Hyderabad are a well balanced team while the return of Chris Lynn from injury for Kolkata Knight Riders has been a disruption in the batting order for Gautam Gambhir’s side.
“I’m a big believer in tournament play and trying to find a way to create that bit of momentum going into the finals. All the big World Cups and Champions Trophies I played in, that was always a focus of ours in the Australian cricket team.
“Not necessarily being at your absolute peak for the start of the tournament because trying to maintain that for eight of nine weeks of an IPL is near-on impossible. I like the trajectory they’re (Sunrisers Hyderabad) on,” Ponting said when asked if the David Warner-led side are peaking at just the right time.
Sunrisers Hyderabad boast the tournament’s leading wicket-taker in Bhuvneshwar Kumar (25 wickets) and top two run-getters in Warner (604 runs) and Shikhar Dhawan (468 runs).
Ponting highlighted the two batsmen and Yuvraj Singh as the key performers of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s campaign thus far.
“Sunrisers have built and built, and they’re playing their best cricket now. I’d rather be in that camp rather than a team that had a lost a few going into the finals. Whether they planned that or not, but they’ve got a lot of experience in Warner, (Yuvraj) Singh, Shikhar Dhawan.
“Even Rashid Khan has come in and done really well for them. They’ve got most bases covered. Moises (Henriques) has probably been that little bit of glue. They’re a really well balanced team.”
ODDS STACKED AGAINST KKR
Asked if Kolkata Knight Riders can bounce back from the two consecutive defeats (14-run loss to Kings XI Punjab on May 9 and nine-run loss to Mumbai Indians on May 13) that saw them close out the group stage, Ponting felt it to be an uphill battle.
“I think it will be (tough for them to beat Sunrisers Hyderabad), a lot will rest on their top-order,” he said.
Ponting went on to elaborate how the team’s top-order had been unsettled with the return of Lynn, forcing openers Gambhir and Robin Uthappa to bat lower.
“Interestingly enough, getting Chris Lynn back into their side has probably disrupted things more than anything else. They’ve had to completely reshuffle their batting order – Lynn and (Sunil) Narine have opened, and (Gautam) Gambhir and (Robin) Uthappa have batted three and four. Gambhir and Uthappa have been a really consistent opening combination for a really long time,” he said.
“It’s obvious KKR are putting more emphasis on their Power Play overs, you probably can’t argue with what they’ve done because Narine has been very dynamic on a couple of occasions and ‘Lynny’ has been at his power-hitting best a few times as well. It will be interesting to see if they revert back to a more conventional way in the semifinals,” he added.
(*all statistics accurate as of Wednesday (May 17) prior to the Eliminator between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders game)