As Kevin Pietersen ran endless laps of the Ferozeshah Kotla in the blistering Wednesday afternoon heat like a man possessed, Hyderabad coach Darren Lehmann sucked on a cigarette, furrowed his brows and proceeded to watch intently. Leaning on the balcony of the team dressing room two tiers up, the Aussie, perhaps, was philosophizing on the dynamics of the IPL’s profit-loss margins.
In January this year, during the first IPL transfer window, Hyderabad traded Pietersen to Team Delhi. Delhi’s batting had been woefully feeble in IPL 4 and Pietersen’s addition – reportedly worth around $2 million – was an urgent injection of beef. Hyderabad, after all, hadn’t been able to make use of his services at all, as ‘KP’ was recovering from a double hernia last season.
Also, player trading – for a premium – has emerged as a legitimate revenue stream for franchisees, in addition to the share of TV broadcasting rights, gate receipts, sponsorships and merchandising. Every franchise this season has looked to rework teams by transferring players during the available window and purchasing new ones. Even so, perhaps Lehmann was wondering if Hyderabad had missed a trick somewhere.
Cut to IPL 5 and Delhi look the team to beat, riding on an impressive pace bowling lineup and a top and a middle order to die for. They have won three games out of four, while Hyderabad after three outings are yet to notch up a win, and all games have been near-misses. These are still early days in the tournament but the most recent defeat against Rajasthan – from a winning position – seems to have deflated Lehmann’s bunch all the more going into Thursday’s afternoon clash here.
Hyderabad were unable to defend 196 against Rajasthan in spite of leg-spinner Amit Mishra’s best efforts, or perhaps because Dale Steyn didn’t fire as usual. Or maybe they managed that much only because of JP Duminy’s addition in the middle.
Delhi’s sole defeat, interestingly, came to Bangalore at a time when ‘KP’ and Mahela Jayawadene were yet to join the team and bolster the middle order. Do the math and it isn’t hard to figure out where the maximum impact stakes lie in the IPL, on the field or otherwise.
“We can’t do much about it, can we,” was all a stony-faced Lehmann said when asked if his franchise was having second thoughts about having transferred Pietersen, “We would have loved to have him here but unfortunately there’s not much we can do about it now.”
Delhi coach Eric Simons, however, dismissed Hyderabad’s string of losses as a non-event. “It doesn’t mean anything,” he said, “When you are the underdog in a T20 game, you can play freely. They have nothing to lose and they can be dangerous. In this game, one person can make a huge difference.”
Simons, though, is hoping Delhi’s collective effort in the field continues to be the sharpest among all IPL teams on Thursday.