Beware KKR! SRH are coming for what is rightfully theirs on Sunday

The SRH players celebrating their win over RR in the Eliminator of IPL 2024 on Friday. [BCCI/]
The SRH players celebrating their win over RR in the Eliminator of IPL 2024 on Friday. [BCCI/]

Had we lived in a fair world, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) would have ceded the IPL 2024 trophy to SunRisers Hyderabad (SRH) at the MA Chidambaram Stadium on Sunday, May 26, and walked away into oblivion. This would have been the most befitting way to hand SRH the trophy which they have etched their name into; for which they will long be considered the pioneers for changing its dimensions altogether.

We knew cricket, and we knew T20 cricket before March 2024. But then, Pat Cummins and his orange-clad band of mavericks took to the field in the IPL, and changed the way our sanity was mired in this game altogether.

So, the best way for KKR to pay homage to the spiritual leaders of this competition this season is to bow their heads in obeisance and pay tribute to the flurry of changes the Eagles' very presence has done to cricket.

Unfortunately, we do not live in a fair world, and SRH will have to go through the rigmarole of walking out in the sultry heat of Chennai on Sunday night and go through the motions to get their hands upon a trophy they have rightfully earned.

Plus, cricket being the fickle mistress that it infamously is, they may even end up on the losing side at the end of the evening and have to plaster grins on their faces and shake hands with lesser men who only happened to do well in a particular game.

The Eagles - devoid of the self-doubt that assaults the most well-mannered and self-assured of men - have taken this season by storm and dictated terms to their opponents unmolested by terms such as 'form' and 'intent'.

What they can expect, however, is the deification of their glorious run by their supporters back home in Hyderabad, who have famously taken to the franchise despite it being owned by a Chennai-based conglomerate.

And what better way to give back to the warmth they have received from the thousands who used to throng east of the city every game day by hustling rides on the world-class metro rail than bring the trophy to them?

The SRH supporters - a long-suffering lot - have borne enough insults for not having any local cricketers on their side, and nothing will cheer them better than to see silverware returning to them for the first time since 2016.

SRH are ready for the IPL final after having covered most of their bases

Spinner Shahbaz Ahmed (extreme left) celebrating a wicket on Friday. [BCCI/]
Spinner Shahbaz Ahmed (extreme left) celebrating a wicket on Friday. [BCCI/]

There are a few flaws that one can find with the SRH side that will step onto the field on Sunday. If there were any doubts about their prowess with the ball in hand, they were settled by their performance on Friday, May 24 against Rajasthan Royals (RR).

Whatever little hopes RR entertained to qualify for the final on a turning Chepauk track were first put paid by a certain Punekar who bats at three for the Eagles and then by two innocuous-looking left-arm spinners.

KKR, who appear to be one of the most well-balanced sides in the tournament owing to their covering of all bases, will be severely tested by Cummins' lads, who know how to shake at the very foundation of their opponents.

The two sides have faced each other on two occasions this season, and to SRH's great discomfiture, KKR emerged as winners in both. This battle between the giants could give precious elbow room to Shreyas Iyer's men.

Yet, SRH seem to have found a new gear with the return of Rahul Tripathi to the starting eleven and the freedom that has seen them charter new territories. Abhishek Sharma and Travis Head will bear most of the pressure, yes, but the others in the batting lineup are willing to put their hands up as well.

The middle order, helmed by the ever-reliant Heinrich Klaasen - who seems to have taken up the responsibility to see his team through challenging situations almost entirely on his shoulders - bears enough weight to embitter KKR.

If SRH had ever seemed a tad lightweight in the bowling department, they must do everything within their power to shut those noises ahead of the high-octane clash on Sunday night against a team that does not know how to give up.

Hyderabad's warmth versus the sweetness of Kolkata - which has tickled your fancy more this season? Despite not being official representatives of the cities they take their names from - neither have any homegrown players - they will test the nerves of every fan from their respective regions.

Win or lose, SRH have changed T20 cricket as we knew it, and this is perhaps their greatest takeaway from this season, not to mention the small matter of a winner's cheque of £20 crore if the Gods relent. And only if money could buy happiness.

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