Dubai: A few days back, Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli revealed that both he and AB de Villiers, his close friend and teammate, had never felt ‘‘so much calm’’ before going into an Indian Premier League campaign. The absence of the pressure of expectations from the home crowd, no so-called home advantage has created a level playing field for all the eight teams this time - according to the master batsman.
It will be interesting to see if the Challengers can shake off the baggage of failure in the past and make IPL 2020 their own as they open their campaign against David Warner’s Sunrisers Hyderabad. The latter, despite not often boasting of the starpower compared to their rivals at the Dubai International Stadium on Monday, has been one of the most consistent teams in the competition - having made play-offs five times in their seven years of existence and winning the title once in 2016.
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The 2016 season must have caused the biggest of heartbreaks for Kohli at a personal level too - for the unstoppable form that he was in - having scored a staggering 973 runs from 16 innings. It was a case of so-year-yet-so-far for the widely followed Bengaluru franchise, who fell short by eight runs in an edge-of-the seat final.
The low profile Sunrisers enjoy a marginally better record (8-6) in head-to-head clashes, but it counts for nothing at a new venue - which may aid the spinners later on in the game.
This is an area where both teams have got plenty of options with the Challengers boasting of the experienced leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, Adam Zampa and the tight off spin of Moeen Ali; while the Sunrisers have the irrepresible Rashid Khan, wily Mohammad Nabi and Shahbaz Nadeem. A match, billed as a contest between the likes of Kohli, De Villiers and Warner and Kane Williamson, may turn out to be a duel between the spinners.
The acquisition of Aaron Finch has been quite a masterstroke for the Challengers management this season - as the captain of the Australian white ball set-up can certainly assist in being part of a think tank within the team between Kohli, De Villiers, himself and Moeen Ali.
Sunrisers, meanwhile, have been great believers in consistency and known to not tinker with the line-up. Considering the strength of their foreign forces, someone as classy as Williamson might have to miss out on a place in the starting line-up, at least to begin with. Warner, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Rashid Khan and Manish Pandey have been pillars in this line-up and they would once again be looked at to fire if the Orange Army want to go the distance.
In the last edition, Williamson had led the Hyderabad-based franchise to a fourth place finish but this season, Warner is back as captain and will look to re-ignite the spark he showed in partnership with England’s Jonny Bairstow at the top of the innings. Rashid Khan is the third foreign player who will be a regular fixture considering his skill sets with both bat and ball. This leaves Williamson to fight it out with Nabi for a place in the XI and considering the wickets on offer in the UAE, it is most likely going to be Nabi ahead of Williamson.
Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Royal Challengers Bangalore
Venue: Dubai International Stadium
Start: 6 pm UAE
Live telecast on BeIn Sports