The disappointment of crashing out was writ large on Muralitharan’s face. © BCCI

VVS Laxman was a picture of bewilderment during the three-hour rain delay in the Eliminator between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore on Wednesday (May 17) night.

The Hyderabad mentor ran from the pavilion to pitch a number of times with an atypical look of anxiety. The former India batsman tested the playing area around the pitch and repeatedly came up looking at his palm with displeasure. Tom Moody, the team coach, and Muttiah Muralitharan, the bowling coach, weren’t too happy about it either but neither was as expressive.

After showing enough signs of buying into Hyderabad’s argument, the match officials started play at 12.55 am. Kolkata, who were initially in pursuit of Hyderabad’s 129, were now chasing a revised 48 from six overs. Gautam Gambhir’s men overcame the score in 5.2 overs for the loss of three wickets.

Hyderabad, the defending champions, were done for the season. Kolkata progressed to Qualifier 2, where they face Mumbai Indians on Friday.

Surely, if it wasn’t for the subsurface aeration system at the venue, the second innings would not have been possible. In that scenario, Hyderabad, by virtue of scoring one point more than Kolkata’s 16 in the league stage, would’ve qualified for the next stage. That could explain why Hyderabad’s coaching staff was pushing to prove that conditions weren’t suitable for their bowlers and fielders.

“If it’s so wet, it is very difficult for the bowlers. We have to have a fair chance,” said Muralithan in the post-match media conference. “Our message was to get the ground as dry as possible so that it is fair to both teams. Before the rain, the ball didn’t get wet and become hard for the bowlers to grip. We wanted the same set of conditions so that they didn’t have an unfair advantage.”

Hyderabad’s tryst with Bangalore this season has been all about the rain. In fact, if their game against Royal Challengers Bangalore on April 25 had not been abandoned due to rain, things might have panned out differently.

A win – a very real possibility given Bangalore’s form at the time – there would’ve helped them finish second on the table, meaning they would’ve played Qualifier 1 and earned two shots at making it to the final. The counter-argument is that a loss there could’ve meant the end of the road before the playoffs.

Even in this game, a full 20-over run chase would’ve ensued had the rain relented before the 11.50 pm cut-off time. And on as sluggish a pitch, you would have to back a bowling side of Hyderabad’s calibre to make a fist of defending the total.

“Had we played and won (against Bangalore), we wouldn’t have been playing here, we would have played in Mumbai. It’s destiny,” offered Muralitharan. “Had it rained for 20 minutes more, we would have gone through. It’s all about destiny. We tried hard, and it didn’t happen. It’s okay.”

The disappointment of crashing out was writ large on Muralitharan’s face and he smiled wide often to try and mask it, but each time he spoke of Hyderabad’s campaign, that heavy feeling just came through.

“We are all disappointed at not getting through, but we’re happy we have performed well this whole season,” said the Sri Lankan legend. “Our players played very well. I’m very happy and other coaches are happy. Some great performances came, unfortunately every time you can’t win. We made sure we gave our best and our best was not good enough.

“Unfortunate that it rained… we can’t complain. We had a very good season. It’s unfortunate that this wasn’t our year. Let’s see if we can get the same team next year, I don’t know what the rules are going to be.”