The Delhi Daredevils find themselves in unfamiliar territory, going into their game against the Royal Challengers Bangalore without the tag of favourites. For two seasons, the Daredevils have walked onto the field with the knowledge that they had the best opening pair in the world, a penetrative pair of fast bowlers, and all-rounders who could rise to the occasion.
Gautam Gambhir went through the paces in the nets, on the field, and on the sidelines of a practice session and is set to return to active duty.
The real question isn’t so much who the favourites are in Thursday’s clash, but what plan the Daredevils have devised to stop the Bangalore team from winning their fifth game from six matches.
The home team has played a lot of cricket in the last week, and might well choose to rest a few of its players, giving those on the bench a game in order to keep them match-ready should the need arise. But drawing solace from this is not the way Delhi play their cricket.
Virender Sehwag remains the most dangerous batsman in the game, irrespective of the format. Even with the likes of Yusuf Pathan and Matthew Hayden pushing opposition bowlers onto the back-foot, it is Sehwag’s presence at the top of the order that inspires most fear, if you can call it that.
Bangalore have relied on Dale Steyn to provide searing pace — he has regularly clocked in the high 140s and occasionally gone past 150 — and Kumble to apply the choke-hold. The tactic has been highly successful and Kumble’s economy rate of a shade over five per over speaks for itself.
Delhi are no slouches in the speed stakes, with Dirk Nannes running in as tirelessly as ever and hitting the deck hard. He will enjoy the extra bounce that the fantastic Chinnaswamy Stadium wicket has provided so far. But Steyn has his job cut out for him, with every batsman in the Bangalore top order — save Rahul Dravid — being among runs so far.
Dravid, who has barely got a chance, was promoted to No. 3 against the Chennai Super Kings and might well stay at that position should Jacques Kallis be dismissed early.
The Daredevils came to Bangalore early, and have put in two hard training sessions, and if they don’t leave empty-handed, they would have won one of the big games of the tournament.