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Away advantage for Kolkata

With Hyderabad being the only team not to have won at home, Kolkata, fresh from their win against Bangalore, will undoubtedly start favourites, reports Arjun Sen.

cricket Updated: May 11, 2008, 03:05 IST
Arjun Sen
Arjun Sen
Hindustan Times

Very few things are constant in sport, and success is certainly not one of them. Even the greatest falter, crests and troughs are, after all, an intrinsic part of every team, no matter how big or small, old or new. But then, it is often only those teams that have the ability to take failure, however acute, in their stride and bounce back that claim silverware in the end.

The last time Hyderabad and Kolkata faced each other in the IPL, both were on a high. While Sourav Ganguly's Kolkata had annihilated Bangalore in their opening game, VVS Laxman's Hyderabad jewels were supposed to make it to the last four without breaking into a sweat.

So, when the two squared up against each other, the game was built up as the 'Clash of Titans', a 'virtual final' and a host of other equally ingenious tag lines.

The game, though a low scoring affair, was explosive. But more than the teams, it was the 22-yard minefield of a pitch that stole all the limelight.

Hosts Kolkata won that game to make it two in two, while Hyderabad had a rather sluggish start to the tournament.

A start they have just not been able to recuperate from. Laxman's team has been plummeting to new lows with every game, and have to win all their remaining matches to give themselves an outside chance of making the last four.

It hasn't been all that better for Kolkata, either. They have slipped down the table with alarming swiftness after that win — winning just one more — looking a pale shadow of the team against Bangalore.

On Sunday, exactly three weeks since that game at the Eden Gardens, the two meet for the return leg at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in a match both just have to glean full points from.

Kolkata, fresh from a well-fought, hard-earned win against Bangalore, will undoubtedly start favourites. Possibly blessed with the most lethal bowling attack, Kolkata have added even more firepower to their arsenal in the form of Shoaib Akhtar.

Though the Pakistani was deemed not fit enough to take the field against Bangalore, the team physio and trainer are hard at work to get the Rawalpindi Express on track.

If Akhtar does indeed make it, he could form a deadly triumvirate along with Umar Gul and Ishant Sharma. But while Ganguly is spoilt for choice with the bowling department, it has been his batsmen's form, or the lack of it, that has caused concern — a situation that only exacerbated when Brad Hodge was called for national duty.

Hyderabad are the only team not to have won at home, and judging by their listless show against Jaipur, only a an individual show of brilliance from Adam Gilchrist or Rohit Sharma will break that jinx on Sunday.

A win looks improbable, even if not impossible.

Teams (from):

VVS Laxman (Captain), Sanjay Bangar, Haldhar Das (wk), H Gibbs, Scott Styris, Adam Gilchrist (wk), D Kalyan Krishna, Pragyan Ojha, D Ravi Teja, PM Sarvesh Kumar, Shahid Afridi, Rohit Sharma, RP Singh, Chamara Silva, Chaminda Vaas, Y Venugopal Rao, P Vijay Kumar, Arjun Yadav, Nuwan Zoysa.
Coach: Robin Singh

Sourav Ganguly (capt), Aakash Chopra, Ajit Agarkar, Ashok Dinda, Brad Hodge, Brendon McCullum (wk), Cheteshwar Pujara, Chris Gayle, David Hussey, Debabrata Das, Iqbal Abdulla, Ishant Sharma, L R Shukla, Mohammed Hafeez, Murali Kartik, Rohan Banerjee, Salman Butt, S Lahiri, Siddharth Kaul, Shoaib Akhtar, Tatenda Taibu (wk), Umar Gul, Yashpal Singh, Wriddhiman Prasanta Saha.
Coach John Buchanan

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