Sharply dominant Kolkata…Hyderabad in chaotic action: Who will be in IPL 2024?

Sharply dominant KolkataHyderabad in chaotic action Who will be in

IPL 2024 | Kolkata Knight Riders | Sunrisers Hyderabad: On a humid Saturday afternoon, Shreyas Iyer and Pat Cummins headed to Chennai Marina Beach for a photo shoot ahead of the IPL final. With the vast Bay of Bengal in the background, they both sat on a banyan tree with a cup.

With the IPL starting on March 23 at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, the IPL is back to where it started after two months. There is no doubt that the two best teams in the series, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad have made it to the finals.

Under new captains and supporting staff, Kolkata and Hyderabad have thrown all conventional styles in the dustbin and embraced the way T20s should be played. The biggest totals of the current season were accumulated quite casually. Of the 6,200-plus total scores that Hyderabad have amassed, three have crossed the 250 mark. Like Hyderabad, Kolkata scored 200-plus totals 6 times. Before the pitches started to slow down, they turned the matches into flying sixes. Hyderabad are at the top of the list with 175 sixes this season. Meanwhile, Kolkata is fourth in the list with 135 sixes.

But on and off the field, they are polar opposites. Kolkata, led by Shreyas Iyer, are looking sharp with former 2-time trophy winner Gautam Gambhir guiding them. There is a sense of order in everything they do. In a season where IPL teams have relied less on all-rounders and instead on specialists, Kolkata still rely on Sunil Narine and Andre Russell. Unlike Chennai Super Kings in 2011 or Mumbai Indians in 2020, Kolkata have no real weakness. Two aggressive openers, followed by a menacing middle-order, two enigmatic spinners, storming pacers and promising young players are in style for a trophy-winning side.

They are predictable in what to expect. But therein lies their strength. They have suffered just three defeats throughout the league. Rajasthan Royals (2008) and Punjab Kings (2014) became the first team in the era to close the gap between the teams to do so. For every question raised against them, they have answers due to meticulous planning. In this format where a consistent batsman is hard to find, that is their hallmark. They have rarely made changes to their playing XI unless field conditions have forced it.

On the other hand, Hyderabad embraced chaos to get here. At the end of the auction, they looked the stronger team on paper. But doubts still linger whether all of them will show up on the field. Having finished last in the points table in two of the last three seasons, it has been a revival year for actor Rajinikanth as he wished. During the release of his film Jailer, Kavya Maran had a request for Hyderabad team owner Kavya Maran from her father Kalanidhi Maran. He said, “My only request to Kala sir (Kalanidhi Maran) is to get good players for Sunrisers. Every time I see Kavya’s emotions during the Sunrisers match, my BP (blood pressure) goes up,” said Rajinikanth. After acquiring Pat Cummins and Travis Head in the auction, they looked like a completely different team.

They were unpredictable. But somehow, they have put all that aside and positioned themselves as worthy opponents to challenge Kolkata for the title.

Their paths to the finals were divergent. But there are also common elements. Both the teams prepared to win the games by putting the batting and bowling second. Orange and purple caps are considered outdated concepts and now strike-rate and dot-balls take precedence. These are two equal sides. They have emphasized playing with freedom and hitting shots that break the roof. So, ahead of the tournament, neither Shreyas nor Cummins found a reason to change their style, which has brought them so far.

On Sunday, they are set to play on a red clay pitch. This pitch offers good bounce and pace. While there is a chance of rain in Chennai, snow is unlikely to have an impact. If the pitch changes like it did in Qualifier 2, both teams have spinners to fall back on. Of that, Kolkata is on the edge.

But as Shreyas said, everything comes down to mindset. Before the IPL started, Cummins didn’t know what to expect from the IPL. But he has now shown that lack of experience is not so important in leading a team in this format. He learned how to play in the Indian environment during last year’s ODI World Cup.

The ODI World Cup final is a good example to describe Cummins’ approach. India was the most dominant team then, but defeated them in the final. Kolkata have been similarly dominant in this IPL. The only team to stop them is Cummins’ Hyderabad. Like Australia, the Hyderabad team is making drastic decisions. Takes right decisions at the right time and moves forward. After Ahmedabad in that World Cup final, Cummins gets another chance to topple an Indian captain.

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