Run-feast on the cards as Lions takes on KKR

Gujarat Lions has performed admirably to earn respect. This is its first appearance in the IPL and a spot among the top four is within its grasp.

Gujarat Lions has adopted a practical approach.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Gujarat Lions has adopted an uncluttered approach to the Indian Premier League (IPL) and emerged a well-settled team. So has Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). With Sunrisers Hyderabad sitting pretty at the top thanks to its incisive bowling, the race for the decisive phase now involves Mumbai Indians, Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), the team led by a phenomenon called Virat Kohli.

In a season laced with some intense contests between the batsmen and the bowlers, the acrobatic fielders not far behind in providing that extra bite to the team’s strength, the likes of Kings XI Punjab and Rising Pune Supergiants have stood thoroughly exposed. The message is clear: past reputations count for nothing. M. S. Dhoni must have felt the pangs of it on the 13 occasions he has taken guard at the crease. For all his street smartness, he has looked woefully out of touch. Not the inspiring figure he used to be in this format.

Punjab has sunk beyond redemption in all departments and played poor cricket with amazing consistency. Delhi Daredevils, following a mediocre show in the past few editions, continues to baffle its fans with ridiculous experiments in the playing XI.

Gujarat Lions has prudently stayed on course by resorting to percentage cricket and a horses-for-courses policy. The emphasis is on responding to the situation and not carrying pre-determined ideas to the middle.

Gujarat Lions has invested well in Aaron Finch and Brendon McCullum, both proving to be rewarding investments. Dhawal Kulkarni and Praveen Kumar have delivered with the ball. Thanks to the experience that skipper Suresh Raina brings to his job Gujarat Lions has become a team to be respected. It has earned deserving laurels in its first appearance in the IPL and a spot among the top four is within its grasp.

Things have panned favourably for KKR. Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa have made runs at crucial stages and Yusuf Pathan has clouted the ball with a regularity that must be a concern for the opposition bowlers. The ease with which he converts a potential dot ball into a juicy six is a fascinating aspect of his power-hitting. It is sheer power and the hapless bowlers can do nothing about it.

The monotony of this format does confront the promoters of the IPL. Falling attendance across all venues is proof of that, but Green Park here is unlikely to leave a seat unoccupied. There is a certain predictability to a T20 match even if last-over finishes have been the popular trend this season – 10 results were achieved with less than six balls to spare.

A run-feast is anticipated here on Thursday and that is what the audience looks forward to – at the venue or in cosy drawing rooms. Does it matter who wins or loses? A last-over climax is the most alluring feature of the shortest format of the game. Some more here would be welcome for the cricket-crazy citizens of Kanpur and close-by.

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