Preview: Delhi vs Kolkata, Match 33

April 28, 2011

In the first three seasons of the IPL, Delhi always went in as among the favourites and made the semi-finals twice – in 2008 and 2009. Kolkata, on the other hand, were never considered strong enough to challenge and had a pretty dismal time, being the only team to have never reached the semi-finals. At the start of IPL 2011, the tables seemed to have turned with Delhi struggling with their combination and Kolkata – ironically captained by Gautam Gambhir – looking good. However, both teams have had reverses recently and while Delhi need a win to not get left behind at the bottom of the table, Kolkata need one to rejoin the top.

Kolkata Knight Riders:

After three wins on the trot they have now had two defeats. They lost to Kochi in a match they should have won and were blown away by Chris Gayle in their match against Bangalore. Kolkata have the quality to bounce back and they need a win to get a good feeling going amongst the players.

Against Bangalore, while nothing could be done with Gayle in the mood, Kolkata didn’t help their cause by dropping Brett Lee. With only four foreign players allowed, the decision should have come down to Brad Haddin or Eoin Morgan. In any case, with a Twenty20 match an extra batsman at Number 6 or lower hardly ever helps the team cause since there are so few overs. On the other hand, a quality bowler gives the captain a guaranteed four overs and with Brett Lee hitting good speeds, it is essential that Kolkata bring him back into the mix. As it is, the Feroze Shah Kotla pitch has been more seamer friendly of late and Lee with Balaji could form a good opening combination.

Kolkata’s batting is its stronger suit, but it is so only when Jacques Kallis doesn’t get bogged down. He has shown he can bat with a good strike-rate in Twenty20s but he has also shown a worrying tendency to slip into a non-hitter mode. Against Bangalore, Kallis was on 12 off 6 balls after the first over. After that he plodded to 28 runs off the next 36 balls faced. With the power-plays on, this strike-rate hurt Kolkata’s chances and could hurt them again if he fails to get a move on – apart from putting more pressure on the batters around him to make up for the slow scoring.

Delhi Daredevils:

Delhi have blown hot and cold in the tournament so far. Their team didn’t look balanced on paper, but they have pulled off wins when not expected. Against that, however, are the losses they have racked up, with only 2 wins out of 6 matches.

Delhi are fast settling into the overseas combination for their matches with David Warner, Morne Morkel and James Hopes cementing their places. The fourth spot has been a tussle between Aaron Finch, Mathew Wade and Colin Ingram. Given that the pitch will assist seamers there is little chance of Roelof van der Merwe getting a look in. Their combination of Indian seamers though, has varied from match to match and Delhi have to fix on who their best men are. Ashok Dinda has been fairly effective while Varun Aaron impressed in the only match he has got so far. Umesh Yadav and Ajit Agarkar haven’t really set the stands on fire though. The biggest questions, however, are looming over Irfan Pathan. Bought for a huge price given his all-rounder credentials, Irfan has yet to make an impact with either bat or ball in the tournament. He is desperate to do so and fans are desperate to see him back to his best.

Delhi’s batting as always will be heavily dependent on the start Warner and Sehwag provide. Apart from Hopes and Venugopal Rao, the other batsmen haven’t inspired much confidence so far and that puts the onus squarely on the openers’ shoulders. And when you have a pair such as Sehwag and Warner, it is natural that they will be depended on for explosive starts.

Contests to watch out for:

Gambhir vs Sehwag: Gautam Gambhir has gone on record saying that if there was any person in the Indian team he would happily give up his spot for, it would be Virender Sehwag. Both know each others’ games inside out, they know how the other thinks and how he will react. They have never played on opposite sides before and it will be fascinating to see how each one plans for the other. For Gambhir, there is the added incentive of doing well against his old franchise who did not retain him.

Irfan Pathan vs Yusuf Pathan: The brothers made headlines after the auctions with the family landing a $4 million pay-day, but in the tournament only Yusuf has done the running so far. The back-yard cricket battles will be once again resumed in the IPL, with both brothers representing different franchises than they had done earlier.

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