It's been a tough week for Rahul Dravid with the Bangalore team playing well and yet losing, letting a match that was in their hands slip away by losing eight wickets in the span of 38 runs. Dravid has struggled for runs and copped the odd rough decision. When his team shows up at the Kotla, this tough week is about to get more difficult.
The Delhi team looked dangerously good in their first two games, playing almost to a perfect script. Their bowlers gutted the opposition top order, and Delhi's top three knocked off the runs with panache. But in the last match Delhi chose to bat first, and had their first loss as they fell a few runs short of what would have been a safe score against Yuvraj Singh's Mohali. It was a timely wake-up call, and Delhi's response will be interesting to watch.
“This is a critical phase in the tournament. Other teams are getting weaker with the departure of the Australian players. We have to capitalise on this and win a couple of matches,” TA Sekar, in charge of the Delhi team, said on the eve of the match. “If we get some momentum going we can get to the top of the table.”
Delhi's Australian player is Glenn McGrath, and he's certainly not going anywhere. However, Daniel Vettori will be packing his bags after the match against Bangalore. This means that Delhi will be seriously tempted to play him. How they juggle their team to accommodate him, “if they choose to”, remains to be seen.
What Delhi are focussing on is a team effort, rather than one person or the other. “In some ways if you look at it, cricket is a game of chance,” said Sekar. “Of course, skill and strategy are important but success also depends on how well you can make use of the breaks that come your way. If you can do that at the right time, and this takes the combined effort of the team, you will do well.”
For both teams, the practice on match eve was an optional one, with some players attending, and those who needed rest staying away. The play-travel-play schedule of this tournament leaves little time for recovery and getting proper rest becomes critical. “These are all international players and they know when to switch on and switch off,” said Sekar. “The key is for the players to remain match ready and not get stale.”
AB de Villiers, who has just joined the Delhi team, is fresh and raring to go, and he'll have a broader role to play than just batting or fielding. The key players in Bangalore's team are Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher. The Delhi team will be more than happy for any inside information that their own South African can provide. For that's what this tournament is about, nationality taking a back seat and a city team coming to the fore.