IPL 2018 Preview: Recharged Sunrisers Hyderabad in the eye of another Chris Gayle hurricane

Ashish Peter 25/04/2018
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Gayle will once again be in focus. Image -IPL/Twitter.

It will be an enticing clash when third-placed Sunrisers Hyderabad host league leaders Kings XI Punjab in the IPL on Thursday.

Kane Williamson’s Sunrisers have got their campaign back on track with their incredible win against the Mumbai Indians following two successive defeats.

On the other hand, Ravichandran Ashwin’s Kings XI Punjab have defied all expectations to establish themselves as the surprise league leaders with five wins out of six matches.

TALKING POINTS

SUNRISERS GRAPPLING WITH INJURY ISSUES

Though they have their opening batsman Shikhar Dhawan back from injury, Hyderabad will be sweating over the fitness of their pace spearhead Bhuvneshwar Kumar who did not play in the win against Mumbai due to a niggling back injury.

The side has also lost the services of express pacer Billy Stanlake for the remainder of the tournament due to a fractured finger and as such, their bowling department is a bit thin at the moment.

PLAYERS IN FOCUS

Chris Gayle has added a new dimension to Punjab’s batting and he is ominously looking like a man with a point to prove after not being retained by Royal Challengers Bangalore and then initially going unsold in the IPL auction.

The explosive left-hander has played three destructive innings since making his Kings XI debut including a superb ton against the same opposition in the tie in Mohali.

On that occasion, it was leg-spinner Rashid Khan who came in the Jamaican’s cross hairs as he conceded 55 runs in his four overs. The Afghanistan man will be determined to get one over Gayle come Thursday and their personal duel could very well play a decisive role in the outcome of the match.

LIKELY LINE-UPS

Sunrisers Hyderabad: Kane Williamson (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey, Wridddhiman Saha (wk), Shakib Al Hasan, Yusuf Pathan, Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar*, Siddharth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma.

Kings XI Punjab: KL Rahul (wk), Chris Gayle, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair, Yuvraj Singh, David Miller, Ravichandran Ashwin (c), Andrew Tye,  Barinder Sran, Ankit Rajpoot, Mujeeb ur Rahman.

*Subject to fitness.

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IPL 2018: Gautam Gambhir steps down as Delhi Daredevils skipper, Shreyas Iyer appointed to the role

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Gambhir has decided to step down. Image - IPL/Twitter.

Delhi DaredevilsGautam Gambhir has decided to step down from the captaincy of the franchise after the side’s poor start to the IPL season.

The Delhi-based outfit have won just one and lost five matches in their campaign so far and find themselves rooted to the bottom of the eight-team table.

In a press conference on Wednesday attended by Gambhir and head coach Ricky Ponting, the outfit announced young Shreyas Iyer as the new skipper of the side.

“I take full responsibility for the position we are in. And looking at the position, I have decided to step down as captain. Shreyas Iyer will take over. I still feel we have the team to turn things around,” a visibly dejected Gambhir said at the press-conference.

“It was absolutely my decision. I was the one who initiated the meeting (with the owners). I thought that I haven’t contributed enough and the same time, the performance of the team (has been poor). I had to take responsibility for being the leader of the ship. It was the right time to step down,” the 36-year-old added.

“Maybe I was too desperate to turn things around and that can backfire. It could be the reason. I just couldn’t handle the pressure and when you don’t do that, you have to own that up as a leader,” Gambhir explained further.

Gambhir had joined the Delhi franchise after leading the Kolkata Knight Riders to two IPL titles but his return to his hometown hasn’t been a happy one with the Daredevils struggling in all departments.

“I fully respect Gambhir for putting the team ahead of himself. I fully endorse Iyer as captain,” Ponting said on his part.

23-year-old Iyer has been one of the rare bright spots in Delhi’s horrendous run with the youngster notching up two fifties so far in the six matches.

“I want to thank the management and my coaches for appointing me as the captain of the team. It is a great honour for me,” Iyer said after being appointed to the role.

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IPL 2018: Kieron Pollard's woes with the bat and the other reasons for Mumbai Indians' flop show

Ashish Peter 25/04/2018
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Pollard struck a half-century in 22 balls in Mumbai's three-run win.

Six matches into the IPL 2018 season, Mumbai Indians are painting a picture of gloom and misery. The defending champions have lost all but one of their matches so far and it is only a Delhi Daredevils side in free-fall which has prevented the defending champions from occupying the bottom position in the league table.

The latest humiliating 31-run loss to Sunrisers Hyderabad at the Wankhede stadium on Tuesday was an indicator of all that has gone wrong for Rohit Sharma’s men in the current campaign.

Here, we take a look at some of the reasons for Mumbai’s disastrous defence of the IPL crown.

MENTALLY SOFT

That Mumbai Indians have a positive net run-rate despite five losses in the six matches shows you all you need to know about the kind of campaign they are enduring. Out of the five losses they have suffered so far, four of them have been decided in the final over of the match.

Rohit’s men have squandered winning positions in the losses to Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad and have no one to blame but themselves.

Their inability to get over the finish line in crux situations reeks of a soft and weak mentality under pressure and is the primary cause of their dismal start.

POLLARD’S WOES

West Indies all-rounder Kieron Pollard has been Mumbai’s go-to man over the years when things get tight. This year, the 30-year-old has simply not turned up. With a combined total of 63 runs in five innings, Pollard’s contributions with the bat have been woeful.

Normally, the Trinidad-born man chips in with the ball too but he has not bowled a single delivery for his side in the year’s edition. Without the added incentive of his bowling, Pollard’s poor batting has stood out like a sore thumb and his role in the side does not do justice to the big bucks splashed out by the franchise to retain him.

ROHIT’S OWN INEFFECTIVENESS

While Rohit’s captaincy has been questionable itself, it is the skipper’s non-contributions with the bat which are another major cause of worry for the defending champions. In the seven innings he has played so far, the opening batsman has crossed the 20-run mark only once. That was his 94-run knock in the side’s sole win which came against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Rohit had an equally poor season last year where he crossed the 30-run mark only twice and his struggles with the bat this season has only compounded Mumbai’s unending problems.

MUSTAFIZUR HAS LOST HIS FIZZ

Mustafizur Rahman comes with a big reputation as a T20 specialist but the Bangladesh pacer’s mystery is fast dwindling. The ‘Fizz’ as he is called, Mustafizur has been made to look ordinary by plenty of batsmen this year.

His once upon a time unplayable range of slower balls have become all too predictable and he no longer carries the same threat as he did when he burst on to the international stage as a teenager.

The 22-year-old’s partnership with Jasprit Bumrah should have been a nightmare for opposing teams in the death overs but that has not happened. The Bangladesh star’s confidence seems to be at an all-time low and that does not bode well for the side’s slim hopes for a dramatic turnaround.

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