Opponents must have heaved a sigh of relief after Mumbai beat Jaipur in the final league match of the IPL. The key was to deny them wickets in the final overs and set a big target. Delhi would have looked at the match with interest. Despite missing Shane Warne and Sohail Tanvir and with their batting order being reshuffled, the bench-strength, who got useful match-practice, ensured that Jaipur were not disgraced.
It is difficult to plan against a crafty opponent, led by a shrewd captain. I still believe that Delhi are dangerous enough and have the team to beat not only Jaipur but also go the distance.
Still, Delhi would do well not to ignore a few blatant pointers. One of them is that Rajasthan don't lose too many wickets in the final overs. And while they are on the field, they somehow manage to take wickets by the bagful in the final stages of the innings. Rajasthan are also pretty potent with ball in the middle overs and they have the specialists to slow down opponents at midway mark.
These are the areas where Delhi need to think afresh. They have the best set of openers so probably it's not a good idea to tamper at the top. Shikhar Dhawan is also worth his weight in gold at number three.
But Delhi could take a chance by pushing him down the order and expect a Ferveez Maharoof or someone in the middle order to come up with a cameo in his place. A batsman needs a lot of skills to counter Warne's craft in the middle overs and, fortunately for Delhi, Dinesh Karthik is coming on to his own at the right time.
Throughout the tournament Delhi's strength has been their batting, but on Thursday they will be up against arguably the best bowling line-up of the IPL. It would take a lot of effort to handle the trio of Tanvir, Munaf Patel and Shane Watson at the bouncy Wankhede pitch. Warne would also relish the bounce expected to assist his spinners.
The difference between Rajasthan and other sides has been the level of unpredictability that Warne's men bring to the table. It's really a difficult team to plan against — nearly all their batsmen have to ability to do the unexpected, and then they also have Shane Warne in their ranks. Their bowling is even better. Everyone is a match-winner and looks to be at the top of their form.
Delhi should remember that they are not dealing with a Warne or a Watson alone; they are up against an extremely well oiled and confident squad. A Sehwag or a Gambhir alone wouldn't account for Rajasthan; they will need everyone to stand up and be counted. It would take five or six top performances if Delhi are to get past Jaipur. If they do, the prized trophy could be theirs.