Two of the most prolific batsmen in IPL history -- David Warner and Virat Kohli -- will square off as Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) takes on Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Monday.
However, skippers Warner (Hyderabad) and Kohli (Bangalore) might have to rely heavily on their bowlers this time around because the average first-innings score in Dubai is 144 and the team batting second at the venue in recent years has struggled enormously.
SRH has made the IPL playoffs every single time since winning the title in 2016. Despite having a poor season in 2019, where the team slumped after the departures of Warner and Jonny Bairstow, Hyderabad finished fourth.
The two major personnel changes made by Sunrisers for 2020 were the recruitment of World Cup-winning coach Trevor Bayliss to replace fellow Australian Tom Moody and the reinstatement of Warner as captain after Kane Williamson led the side in the last two editions.
Meanwhile, RCB has finished at the bottom of the table in two of the previous three years. It last reached the playoffs in 2016, where it lost the final by eight runs to Hyderabad.
Bangalore also has a new head coach in Australia's Simon Katich, who took over from former India coach Gary Kirsten in August 2019. New Zealand's Mike Hesson, who was with Kings XI Punjab the previous edition, has been appointed as the side's director of cricket.
THE KEY MEN
Free-scoring openers Warner, Bairstow and leggie Rashid Khan will be the first names on the SRH teamsheet. With Williamson relinquishing captaincy, his spot in the playing XI could be handed to a foreign recruit with all-round skills.
Hyderabad spent the least among eight teams during the auction in December 2019. The team already looked settled, and with the inclusion of Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh and Indian youngster Priyam Garg, it is even more formidable.
So, Marsh might be considered to play against Bangalore on Monday. But with finger spinners enjoying success in Dubai, Mohammad Nabi could be the preferred choice. The Afghan star picked up 12 wickets at an economy of 5.1 in the recently-concluded CPL.
Manish Pandey, Vijay Shankar, Garg and one among Abhishek Sharma and new signing Virat Singh are expected to complete Sunrisers' middle-order. Shankar (medium-fast) and Abhishek (orthodox) can provide part-time bowling options too.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar will spearhead the attack with the ball for SRH alongside left-armer Khaleel Ahmed. The likes of Siddarth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma and Billy Stanlake will most probably be alternated throughout the tournament.
On the other hand, RCB went for the big-money signings yet again. The franchise had snapped South African all-rounder Chris Morris for a whopping sum of ₹10 crores. Australia's limited-overs skipper Aaron Finch was signed for ₹4.4 crores and Kane Richardson, who has been replaced by countryman Adam Zampa, for ₹4 crores.
Morris and Finch could directly be drafted into the Royal Challengers' playing XI. AB de Villiers will occupy one of the remaining two overseas players' slot.
Considering the spin-friendly nature of the Dubai track, the fourth foreigner will either be English all-rounder Moeen Ali or Zampa, who took 10 wickets in three ODIs against England recently. Ali's batting prowess might tilt the scale in his favour. Veteran pacer Dale Steyn will also be considered as the tournament progresses.
With De Villiers hinting at keeping wickets for Bangalore this year, 20-year-old Karnataka power-hitter Devdutt Padikkal can open the innings with Finch instead of Parthiv Patel. The experience of Kohli and De Villiers will be crucial for RCB, which comprises of Shivam Dube and Gurkeerat Singh as middle-order batsmen.
Umesh Yadav will once again lead the bowling department for the outfit, with the likes of Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj assisting him. Spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Washington Sundar could be X-factors in the UAE pitches, with Dube (medium-fast) providing an extra bowling option.
Hyderabad and Bangalore have faced each other 15 times in the IPL so far, with the former holding an 8-6 win-loss record. The 2017 game at the Chinnaswamy Stadium was washed out. In the last four games between the two sides, SRH and RCB have shared two wins each.
Latest on Sportstar
- Australia’s Hazlewood eases fears over long-term fitness
- Benzema’s Real exit ‘surprise to everyone’, says Ancelotti
- French Open: Jabeur ‘not so far’ from her best after injury-plagued season
- Formula 1: Perez need not put pressure on himself, says Horner
- Formula 1: Mercedes fined 10,000 euros over physio breach