It’s a match-up between dreaded bowlers in White’s armoury and famed batsmen at Dravid’s disposal

Rajasthan Royals, a camp ambushed by its own men. Hyderabad Sunrisers, a team grown on self belief. Marked by contrasting characters, these two unfancied outfits have come to signify the intrigue that connects the fans with cricket in the Indian Premier League.

It can be fascinating, it can be heartbreaking, but it will be under unprecedented scrutiny. Every ball, run, boundary, dismissal will evoke varied response when the teams meet at the Ferozeshah Kotla here on Wednesday.

But a reassuring thought will be the presence of Rahul Dravid and V.V. S. Laxman in the rival tents, ensuring that cricket is played the clean way. Of course, none doubts the credentials of the rest but these two gentlemen cricketers made a huge impact with their immaculate cricket grooming.

If Laxman is a mentor to the Sunrisers youngsters, Dravid plays a similar role in Rajasthan Royals but also needs to step on to the field as a captain, leading by example.

Refreshing competition

Competing for a place in the final, Royals and Sunrisers bring refreshing competition to the IPL. Rajasthan Royals, wounded by the spot-fixing scandal, has literally gone into a shell, and understandably too. The captain does not wish to face the media and the team conducts its training in-camera, a fall out of the misdeeds committed by three of the team members.

Sunrisers have no such worries. It is a happy bunch, happy to figure in the most critical phase of the tournament. “We are a team without any stars. Each player knows his role and they all back each other,” said Laxman. He has emerged a key figure in the team’s success which has essentially been built around the tremendous potential of its bowlers.

Dale Steyn is the most dreaded bowler on the circuit and Amit Mishra the crafty, ever-willing to take punishment, not averse to flight or innovate even in this format that offers little scope for a comeback.

Steyn and Mishra have proved the cushion for a brittle batting line-up, the weak link in a team that was hardly known for resilience.

Sticking to basics

“The basis of success in any format is sticking to basics. That’s all I ensure the youngsters remember when faced with a situation. The difference between T20 and rest is the reduced number of overs. You have to know your game and act accordingly because the time for assessing and addressing the situation is too short in T20. It is important how you prepare, approach, plan and execute. Here, the support staff have a huge role to play. I can say this from experience. I used to be inside and now I am outside the boundary, watching and analysing,” said Laxman ahead of the match.

Sunrisers Hyderabad, a new team in nature, not in experience, has done exceptionally well to reach this far.

There has been a distinct surge in the team’s fortunes every time Steyn assumes his demonic form, knocking the batsmen around, testing them with pace and bounce, a ferocious replica of what Jeff Thomson used to be in his heyday.

Thomson would bowl to rattle the batsmen and the stumps. Steyn is no different. The difference is Steyn sports a smile and sometimes acknowledge a good shot from the batsman.

A Steyn-Shane Watson duel could prove a fascinating attraction for the spectators. Even a Dravid-Mishra contest, each testing the other’s skills, can make it an evening to enjoy.

The Kotla would be a theatre of excitement. Can Sunrisers tame Royals’ valour? We shall know by Wednesday midnight!