Wounded Daredevils keen to hit winning road
Cricket: Indian Premier League
After a disappointing loss in the season-opener, the Delhi Daredevils would be hoping for a better batting performance when they take on perennial underdogs Rajasthan Royals in the fourth match of the IPL on Friday.
A brittle middle-order, coupled with the absence of impact players Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder due to injuries, has become a cause for concern for the Mahela Jayawardene-led side. Their batting line-up took another hit when they lost the services of dashing opener Virender Sehwag for the second match in a row due to back spasms.
Dubbed as a top-heavy side, Delhi’s middle-order failed to capitalise on a brisk start provided by Jayawardene and explosive Aussie batsman David Warner on a slow Eden Gardens’ track against Kolkata Knight Riders.
Delhi would be keen to make amends for the crushing six-wicket defeat on Wednesday.
The decision to try rookie batsman Manprit Juneja did not bear fruit for the Daredevils, as he looked uneasy during his brief stay at the wicket, and the side would be better served by the experience of Venugopal Rao in the middle order.
Despite the unavailability of last year’s Purple-Cap holder, Morne Morkel, for the second consecutive game, Delhi’s bowling attack looks settled unit. It features a three-pronged pace attack comprising Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra and Umesh Yadav, besides left-arm tweaker Shahbaz Nadeem. Morkel is currently playing for his domestic side in South Africa and will join the squad from their third match, against the Mumbai Indians on April 8.
Out of the 10 meetings in the brief IPL history, the Daredevils have had the upper-hand against their Jaipur-based rivals, with six wins and four losses.
On the other hand, Rajasthan Royals, who have looked awry since their inaugural edition feat, will look to kickstart their campaign on an positive note.
Except for the 2008 edition, in which the Royals emerged surprise winners under the maverick leadership of the legendary Shane Warne, the Shilpa-Shetty co-owned team has always finished in the bottom-half of the table.
This sixth edition would be the last hurrah for former India captain Rahul Dravid and he would want to finish on a high as the skipper of a relatively inexperienced side.
In the absence of Shane Watson, Dravid is likely to partner Rahane in the opening slot and would be hoping to play the sheet-anchor role while expecting seasoned campaigners like Brad Hodge and Owais Shah to maintain a healthy run-rate throughout the innings.
KP’s surprise visit
Meanwhile, England batsman Kevin Pietersen paid a surprise visit to his Delhi Daredevils team-mates by turning up at their training session on Friday. Pietersen, ruled out of the IPL due to a knee injury, was seen having a long conversation with Jayawardene and Warner.
He watched the entire practice session of his team. The 32-year-old, who was seen wearing knee braces, is in the national capital on a personal visit.