The carefree spirit of the Caribbean up against the camaraderie coursing through the Hyderabad ranks. It should make for a fabulous contest at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on Tuesday (Septemer 23) night.
Trinidad & Tobago have been the most beloved side across all editions of the Champions League Twenty20 tournament. They first caught the imagination with a spectacular victory against New South Wales Blues in a league match in the inaugural CLT20 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Uppal, a match after which the Hyderabadis took T&T to heart.
It was the match where Kieron Pollard first set stall; it was also the tournament where the likes of Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree stepped out of the shadows and into the limelight. From then on, teams from T&T have entertained and exhilarated even if they haven't always been at full strength, just as they aren't this time around too.
Pollard is away doing duty for Mumbai Indians, while Dwayne Bravo and Kevon Cooper too are with their respective IPL franchises. But over the years, T&T have learned to live without their IPL superstars, so Sunrisers Hyderabad can expect a certain scrap as they themselves begin their main draw campaign.
The Sunrisers will believe they are in a better space than their opponents for the simple reason that they played three matches at the PCA Stadium in the qualifying phase of the competition. They therefore have not just first-hand knowledge but also immediate experience of having played at the venue, which should give them a bit of an edge over a team itself not short on confidence after its tournament-opening 25-run win over Brisbane Heat on Sunday.
Hyderabad were impressive during the qualifying stages until being overwhelmed by Otago Volts and Brendon McCullum. Having said that, they did use that match to try out a few different things. Not all of them necessarily came off but Hyderabad now have a better understanding of what their best options are.
The reasonable success of Cameron White in the loss against Otago and the arrival of Clint McKay, the Australian paceman, are unlikely to wean them away from their first-choice overseas quartet of JP Duminy, Thisara Perera, Darren Sammy and Dale Steyn, who has hit his straps after beginning somewhat gingerly. Steyn was at his marauding best in a losing cause against Otago, hustling the batsmen with his pace and procuring appreciable away swing from the right-hand batsmen. He will be as crucial to Hyderabad's success as their opening pair of Pathiv Patel and Shikhar Dhawan, the captain, who put on 121 and 68 respectively in their first two qualifying games against Kandurata Maroons and Faisalabad Wolves to fashion straightforward victories.
Despite allegations of spot-fixing against four of their players in the latest bunch of conveniently timed revelations, Hyderabad remained in high spirits at a crisp, intense training session on Monday. There was no lack of exuberance or enthusiasm. Hyderabad are clearly a closely knit unit where each player has the other's back.
T&T remain a force to reckon with despite being without three big boys. Denesh Ramdin's batting unit looks a little undercooked but there is plenty of firepower in the bowling group. The batting was less than impressive against Brisbane Heat in Ranchi on Sunday but the bowlers defended the somewhat anaemic total of 135 with tigerish zeal. Ravi Rampaul led the way with 4 for 14 while Badree, the sliding leg-spinner not unlike Karan Sharma from the opposition, was his usual parsimonious self and Narine struck vital blows at critical stages.
Ramdin called for an improved batting display in the immediacy of the Ranchi victory. The captain will have to lead by example alongside Lendl Simmons and Darren Bravo, but they will not have the mercurial presence of Brian Lara to egg them on. Lara, travelling with the team as tourism ambassador and mentor, will skip the Mohali leg and link up with the side again in Ahmedabad for their next match, so T&T's batsmen will need to look inwards for inspiration.
Sunrisers Hyderabad: Shikhar Dhawan (capt), Parthiv Patel (wk), JP Duminy, Biplab Samantray, Thisara Perera, Darren Sammy, Ashish Reddy, Karan Sharma, Amit Mishra, Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma, G Hanuma Vihari, Cameron White, Clint McKay, Anand Rajan.
Trinidad & Tobago: Lendl Simmons, Evin Lewis, Darren Bravo, Jason Mohammed, Denesh Ramdin (capt, wk), Sherwin Ganga, Nicholas Pooran, Sunil Narine, Rayad Emrit, Ravi Rampaul, Samuel Badree, Navin Stewart, Adrian Barath, Khesan Yannick Ottley.