Sub-plots aplenty as KKR face Sunrisers in IPL final | Crickit
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Sub-plots aplenty as KKR face Sunrisers in IPL final

May 25, 2024 08:45 PM IST

Two teams with the most attacking mindsets with the bat will do battle on Sunday to win IPL’s 17th edition

Sitting next to each other with the glittering IPL trophy in front, Pat Cummins and Shreyas Iyer gave such brotherly vibes on match eve that you would think it leaves no room for sledging in the big Indian Premier League final at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday. Banter, yes. There was plenty of it between the Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders captains at their joint media conference.

Kolkata Knight Riders captain Shreyas Iyer and Sunrisers Hyderabad's Pat Cummins pose for photos with the Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy(PTI)
Kolkata Knight Riders captain Shreyas Iyer and Sunrisers Hyderabad's Pat Cummins pose for photos with the Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy(PTI)

“Are you going to bat first tomorrow”, Cummins was asked. “Good question... for me to know,” Shreyas chimed in. Cummins turned to Shreyas, “What are you going to do?”

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They were quizzed about the impact dew factor may have on the toss decision. “Whatever decision we take tomorrow, or he takes tomorrow, I hope it goes in our favour,” Shreyas answered, inviting a chuckle from Cummins and the rest of the room.

Ten years ago, when KKR last lifted the IPL trophy under Gautam Gambhir’s captaincy, it was Cummins’ rookie season for the men in purple. Much wiser, shrewder and sharper, Cummins is in his first season as IPL skipper. Out to foil the plans of Gambhir, back in KKR this IPL as a highly successful mentor.

Of late, Cummins has been a serial trophy winner, having led Australia to the World Test Championship title, the Ashes and the ODI World Cup in 2023. “The run has to stop at some point, I guess,” he said. “I haven't led a T20 team before, but having captained in the ODI World Cup, it didn’t feel foreign.”

Cummins has indeed been at home, making the crucial on-field calls for SRH. He utilised the full quota of his left-arm spin twins Shahbaz Ahmed and Abhishek Sharma against Rajasthan Royals in Qualifier 2 on Friday. Partly because RR’s middle order was predominantly right-handed. Was it a data driven call or instinctive? “Data is just one factor in decision making. It has to be a balance between objective information that you gather and what you are feeling out there,” Cummins explained. The absence of dew on Friday also hurt RR’s plans after they chose to bowl.

While Cummins has been central to SRH’s fortunes, for KKR Gambhir has been the brain behind a lot of decision making. “Gautam bhai has got immense knowledge about the game. His strategy is spot on. He adds a lot of cream to the team,” Shreyas said.

SHREYAS’ POINT TO PROVE

But as things go in cricket, the captain rules on the field. Shreyas will have extra motivation to lead his team to the trophy. He was virtually accused of feigning injury to avoid playing Ranji Trophy by BCCI’s medical team. Although he ultimately played the Ranji final and contributed to Mumbai’s win, Shreyas lost his BCCI contract and didn’t make it to India’s T20 World Cup squad.

He didn’t stop from making a point, subtly. “After the ODI World Cup, I was struggling in the longer format. When I had raised my concerns, no one was agreeing to it,” Shreyas said. “But at the same time, the competition is with myself.”

“It gives me immense pleasure to be able to play so well in the last few months. All I did was stay in the present and not worry about the selection process.”

RAIN, RUNS OR SPIN

A constant theme this season has been high scores, and sixes flowing off the bat. It’s no coincidence that the two teams battling for the trophy top the scoring rates. KKR are the fastest overall (SR 166) while SRH are on top in the powerplay (SR 183).

The weather has been unpredictable in Chennai and could be a spoiler. There was no dew and uninterrupted spin on a black soil pitch in the second innings of the SRH-RR game on Friday. On Saturday, it was hot all day and rained for an hour in the evening. The boundaries will be less lopsided, but the final will be played on a red soil surface.

Dew or not, KKR’s spin-twins Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy have proved to be a difficult proposition to get away. Can SRH batters buck the trend? Will KKR again find a way to make up for Phil Salt’s absence? Is Narine’s batting form too good to last? Who will win the bragging rights before Cummins and Mitch Starc rejoin the Australian dressing room? What about Travis Head versus Starc part two? Who will win the race to the emerging player award – KKR’s Harshit Rana or SRH’s Abhishek Sharma?

There are a number of sub-plots to look ahead to. None bigger than the title hunt – KKR's quest for a third and SRH chasing their second, to close the gap on Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.

 

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