Daredevils hope to douse Kings XI fire

New Delhi: Five matches into the new season and a revamped Delhi Daredevils have slid to the dreaded but familiar position -- the bottom of the table.

In search of much-needed momentum, they kick off their first home game against table-toppers Kings XI Punjab, a team they are meeting for the second time in this edition of Indian Premier League here on Monday.

The two teams have had contrasting journeys so far. Kings XI, spurred by their all-round performance, have lost only once to collect eight points in five matches. Daredevils, on the other hand, have won just once in the five matches. While the Punjab side has cranked up the pace to motor their way to the top, Daredevils appear fuddled.

The opening pairs have struggled to provide the Daredevils a strong start, thus leaving the matter to a rather young middle order. However, the form of young wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant has been delightful. The 20-year-old raised the level against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday before being overshadowed by the brilliance of AB de Villiers during their six-wicket defeat.

Besides Pant, Shreyas Iyer has inspired confidence, Jason Roy played his part during the solitary victory against Mumbai Indians and Glen Maxwell has shown streaks of his potential. One would expect captain Gautam Gambhir to rise to his reputation at his home ground as the race to the play-offs only gets tougher for Daredevils from here.

The bowling, too, has been off-colour and has failed to contain the opposition -- be it against Royal Challengers Bangalore (174) or Kings XI (166).

Kings XI, on the other hand, have been spurred by work of their openers. Chris Gayle is back to form with vengeance and KL Rahul has been purposeful in expanding his range as a cricketer. If Gayle already has a century to his name, Rahul smashed perceptions to score the fastest IPL half-century. The two have been instrumental in quickly getting the team off the blocks. Karun Nair has been in good touch, though one is awaiting more from Mayank Agarwal after his exceptional run on the domestic circuit.

The bowling, led by captain and off-spinner R Ashwin, too has delivered. Though Ashwin is yet to find his rhythm, Mohit Sharma and Andrew Tye have done a good job of restricting the run flow. Kings XI mentor Virender Sehwag has expressed his belief in the squad’s potential to win an elusive trophy, and they sure seem to be on the right track.

For legendary Ricky Ponting, who is the new head coach of Daredevils, the picture is not as rosy. The task at hand is enormous, and it is at “home” he would hope that Daredevils would find comfort and a headstart.

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