Rashid Khan emerges as new hero for Sunrisers Hyderabad — it’s just a shame the ground was less than a third full

Rajasthan Royals' Jos Buttler is bowled by Rashid Khan during the IPL match in Hyderabad. (AP)
Updated 10 April 2018
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Rashid Khan emerges as new hero for Sunrisers Hyderabad — it’s just a shame the ground was less than a third full

  • Afghanistan star takes two fine catches and bowls Jos Buttler
  • But cost of tickets and location of stadium result in poor attendance
The Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium isn’t the easiest venue to get to. The traffic can be a nightmare and the staircases and passages in the stadium’s innards resemble the Minotaur’s labyrinth. Along with Mohali, where Kings XI Punjab have made the playoffs in just two of ten seasons, this is an Indian Premier League (IPL) ground that struggles to put backsides on seats, inexpensive or posh.
By the league’s standards, the tickets are moderately priced, with the cheapest at 500 rupees, and the costliest a little less than 4,000. But when only 18,886 turn up at a venue that can accommodate 60,000, you know there’s a problem. More than a decade ago, Indian cricket made a conscious decision to abandon dilapidated old stadiums in the heart of cities for more modern ones on their outskirts. The problem in cities like Hyderabad and Nagpur is that they are so far out it may as well be in another city. When even a rickshaw back into town costs you upwards of 300 rupees, the average punter just isn’t going to fork out.
For Hyderabad, the problem is twofold. Thanks to the Sandpaper-gate fiasco, they have also lost the captain who led them to the title in 2016, while smashing 848 runs along the way. David Warner would both bang the drum and lead from the front, and his replacement, Kane Williamson, left no one in any doubt as to his worth.
“I don’t think anyone can replace Davey,” he said after leading Hyderabad to a facile nine-wicket win against Rajasthan. The fans, however, are slightly more conflicted. “He was a great captain,” said Manmohan Singh, an executive director with a Swiss investment bank based in the city. “The team is undoubtedly weaker without him.
“At the same time, it’s probably a good thing he’s out. When there are integrity issues around, it’s never easy for people to believe in the team or the leader.”
In contrast to the sheer bedlam outside the grounds in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai — where crowds in excess of 10,000 watched practice games — the atmosphere in Hyderabad was fairly subdued. The hawkers selling cut-price jerseys and flags were far fewer in number, and the stadium DJ often had to exhort the crowd to pump up the volume.
Jaipur is 1,500km away from Hyderabad, and it was understandable that there was little by way of royal blue on the terraces. Back in the early years of the league, when Shane Warne was sprinkling some stardust around, Rajasthan were the neutrals’ team. These days, they inspire no such loyalty.
And it was not as though Hyderabad needed the proverbial 12th man to see off a Rajasthan side that were so poor on the night. Warner may not have been there as Pied Piper, but the thousands dotted across the stands had a new hero to acclaim.
A year ago, in his first IPL season, Rashid Khan was still an associate player. Now, Afghanistan are two months away from their first Test in Bangalore, and Rashid has led them to the 2019 World Cup as well. He elicited some of the biggest cheers of the night for sensational running catches that dismissed Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson, and the googly that made a mess of Jos Buttler’s stumps. His arched-back celebration, with shades of Shahid Afridi, got the most animated response from the Orange army.
In a match that featured Ben Stokes, the most expensive auction recruit, Williamson, Buttler and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, it was the teenager from cricket’s Cinderella side that was the standout performer. And an adoring crowd weren’t shy of letting him know it.


Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

Updated 20 January 2019
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Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City ease past Huddersfield to cut Liverpool’s Premier League lead

HUDDERSFIELD: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola was far from satisfied despite a 3-0 win away to Huddersfield Town on Sunday that saw his side cut Liverpool’s lead at the top of the Premier League table to four points.
Liverpool’s compelling 4-3 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday heaped huge pressure back onto reigning champions City but they were rarely troubled by a Town side that look a certain bet for relegation this season.
City’s first goal, a deflected strike for Danilo in the 18th minute, brought up their 100th goal of the season in all competitions before Raheem Sterling scored a diving header from Leroy Sane’s cross in the 54th minute and Sane himself made it 3-0 with a calm finish just two minutes later.
For Guardiola, it should have been an afternoon of enjoyment as his side again proved their willingness to push Liverpool all the way this season.
The City manager, however, has forged a footballing reputation based on sublime performances as well as ruthless goalscoring and, on that basis, his team’s showing in West Yorkshire was not a success as the visitors never really clicked into gear on a day against a Huddersfield side who had parted company with manager David Wagner on Monday.
“During the season you have these kind of games,” Guardiola said. “It is important to win. We have scored many goals in all competitions.
“(But) the way we played, we didn’t deserve more than three goals. We will improve in the future.
“We have to demand more from ourselves in every game and do our best, but sometimes it’s difficult.
“Today we are happy we have won but after immediately we have to analyze. During the season you have games when maybe you are not in the top level and it is important to win these games.”
Although City’s fans were happier than their manager following this result, Guardiola could at least take some heart from the fact his side again refused to blink first in the race for the title.
For the second consecutive week, City kicked off knowing Liverpool had already won their weekend fixture and that, consequently, the onus was back on his players to secure three points as well.
Once again, Guardiola’s side managed to do that following up the 3-0 victory over Wolves with this showing and the City manager was more than happy to remind everybody that silverware is not handed out for another four months.
“One team has been better but we’re in January and there’s many more games to play,” he added.
“You don’t win or lose the Premier League in January. We have to focus on what we have to do. If Liverpool win, we have to win. And if Liverpool lose then we also have to win.”
This match was a baptism of fire for Huddersfield’s caretaker boss Mark Hudson and while the Terriers showed impressive fight to inspire some hope this season, this defeat still left them 10 points adrift of safety.
If, as expected, the Borussia Dortmund Under-23 coach Jan Siewert is appointed as Wagner’s permanent replacement, nobody would blame him if he spent his first day in the job preparing for a return to the second-tier Championship next season.
“It’s been a long week,” admitted Hudson.