Hyderabad: The end of the Test series against Australia and the start of the Indian Premier League has not just meant a switch from whites into coloured clothing and white balls. The dusty pitches at the four Test venues are also giving way to firm surfaces that will keep the pacers interested.
The initial signs were provided by Kolkata's Brett Lee, who took a wicket against Delhi with the first delivery of this season, and Mumbai Indians’ Mitchell Johnson, who left Royal Challengers’ Chris Gayle bemused with an unplayable first delivery.
The connoisseurs of pace bowling will have plenty more to savour at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium on Friday when newcomers Sunrisers Hyderabad take on Pune Warriors India, a contest between teams that have laid heavy emphasis on their new ball attacks.
Sunrisers’ South African Dale Steyn will clearly be the star attraction. In the last IPL season, the world's No one ranked Test bowler returned the best average and economy rate among leading wicket-takers, providing the silver lining in a faltering Deccan Chargers outfit.
Steyn will be supported by Ishant Sharma, who can work up a lively pace and will be very effective if he bowls at his best. The Pune Warriors India come second best in terms of pace but the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashok Dinda, Wayne Parnell and Mitchell Marsh can be equally potent.
Although he lacks genuine pace, Bhuvneshwar has made rapid strides in the national team thanks to his ability to move the ball both ways. And his newfound status is sure to be tested.
Adding spice to this battle is the presence of two fast bowling legends in either camp. Former Pakistan great Waqar Younis is the bowling coach for Sunrisers while South African pace legend Allan Donald is Pune's head coach.
Waqar, the master of reverse swing and toe-crushing yorkers, will look to emulate compatriot Wasim Akram, who mentored Kolkata Knight Riders to the crown last year by transforming his bowlers into an effective unit.
The battle-lines have been drawn.