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regular-article-logo Sunday, 16 June 2024

Knight Riders vs Sunrisers, IPL 2024: Pitch plays protagonist in final act

While Friday's contest had been held on black soil pitch which allowed the spinners to come into play and make good use of the turn on offer, the conditions could be vastly different for the final

Indranil Majumdar Chennai Published 26.05.24, 05:51 AM
Geared up: Kolkata Knight Riders captain Shreyas Iyer with Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper Pat Cummins in Chennai on Saturday, ahead of Sunday’s final.

Geared up: Kolkata Knight Riders captain Shreyas Iyer with Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper Pat Cummins in Chennai on Saturday, ahead of Sunday’s final. PTI

Pat Cummins is a man of few words. He is not the sort to rely on rhetoric and a mere 35 seconds is enough to deliver his pep talk in the team huddle.

Relying more on tactical manoeuvrings and one-on-one sessions with the players, he has made the difference with his insight. His surprise move to get Abhishek Sharma to bowl against Rajasthan Royals on Friday tilted the scales in Sunrisers Hyderabad's favour.

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Watching the ball turn and grip off the surface, he got the part-timer, who had bowled only three overs in the lead-up to the contest, to deliver a match-winning spell of 2/24.

The Kolkata Knight Riders will be wary of the circumstances and execute caution in their bid for a third IPL crown on Sunday. The wicket at the MA Chidambaram Stadium has already evoked much interest and the red soil surface could invite tweaking the teams' planning.

While Friday's contest had been held on black soil pitch which allowed the spinners to come into play and make good use of the turn on offer, the conditions could be vastly different for the final.

"It's completely different from what we played (against Rajasthan Royals). It's a red soil and Friday, if I'm not wrong, it was a black soil wicket," Cummins said.

A red-soil surface offers ample bounce and carry which works to the advantage of the fast bowlers. It could help a Mitch Starc or a Cummins to strike early in the Powerplay overs to neutralise the damage the batters could potentially carry out in the later stages.

Chennai Super Kings had surrendered to Punjab Kings on this very surface more than a fortnight back against Kagiso Rabada and Sam Curran's pace and lateral movement. How things pan out on Sunday could also be crucial.

There was no dew on Friday but it remains a mystery and can't be ignored. It cannot be ruled out either because of the prevailing overcast and humid conditions. It did rain for a while early on Saturday evening, forcing an abandonment of KKR's nets session, but there was no forecast of rain arising out of Cyclone Remal in these parts.

To bat or not to bat first could be the key factor in the circumstances. Shreyas Iyer and Cummins' joint news conference on Saturday afternoon was alluring and engaging.

The Sunrisers captain was quizzed on his preference if he won the toss in the final prompting Shreyas to quip, "Good question for me to know. What are you gonna do? What do you prefer? What is the thought, sir?"

Cummins with a wry smile gathered all his diplomatic acumen to reply with a shrug, "We'll see tomorrow. We'll have another look tomorrow, (and then) work it out.

"But yeah, it doesn't really bother us too much. I think back in the day you used to think about batting first and putting runs on the board. I think teams are probably less worried about chasing nowadays than maybe they were back in the day."

Still how Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy perform could decide which way the dice rolls. "They are going to play an important role. They have been the wicket-takers for our team and they've been spot on in terms of executing the plans," said Shreyas.

KKR have won on both the occasions the teams have met in this edition. If Starc can rattle Travis Head early yet again with a full, swinging delivery, the Knights will relish it. The opener's vulnerability against left-arm pacers is now well-documented.

The Knights could enjoy the crowd support too because of the presence of Venkatesh Iyer and Varun in their side. There's hope that principal owner Shah Rukh Khan will be present despite his taking ill in Ahmedabad.

Such high-profile contests also often involve nerves and a surprise match winner. Unheralded Manvinder Bisla and Manish Pandey had walked away with the Man of the Match awards in KKR's title triumphs in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Whose turn will it be on Sunday?

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