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Weather or not, Delhi must win

They're not in an uncomfortable position, like Bangalore or Hyderabad, but there's a nervous anticipation about the squad, reports Anand Vasu.

cricket Updated: May 22, 2008 01:47 IST
Anand Vasu

The National Capital Territory might be enjoying a break from the tough summer with unseasonal rains drenching the city and cooling it down by several degrees but the Delhi team is sweating.

They're not in an uncomfortable position, like Bangalore or Hyderabad, but there's a nervous anticipation about the squad as their IPL campaign comes to a boil.

Forty days of criss-crossing the country and the team has 12 points in the bag, just about enough to keep them in the hunt for the last available semi-final spot, Jaipur, Chennai and Mohali are all but waiting in the knockout phase already, and it's now down to two matches. The last thing Delhi want is for their team to be setback by rain.

If they were beaten by either of their next two opponents that's one thing, but to be denied a shot at the knockouts by the weather would be gut-wrenching for Virender Sehwag and his men.

It's apt that Delhi play out their final games at the Ferozeshah Kotla and even if it's in a bit of a soggy state at the moment, the drainage was brilliant in the last rain-affected match, against Mohali, where Delhi snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

What makes this final hurrah doubly apt is that Delhi's remaining matches are against Kolkata and Mumbai, the two teams they are trying to edge out in the race for semifinals.

Mumbai's star has risen and risen since early losses and Sachin Tendulkar's return has brought with it a genuine buoyancy of mood.

But Mumbai can be dealt with later. First Delhi need to put it past Kolkata, and there are specific threats they will look to address.

The biggest hurdle will be David Hussey, who has shown an uncanny knack of putting even the good balls away for six as the innings winds down.

Sourav Ganguly has brought his ability to clear the infield into play on a couple of occasions but he has not been a consistent force for his team with the bat.

With the ball Ganguly has shown that experience and discipline work wonders even in Twenty20 cricket but Delhi's top-order has shown scant respect for opposition bowling.

What is remarkable has been Gautam Gambhir's incessant scoring and in this format it seems the law of averages has been suspended as far as he is concerned. He's the first batsman to score 500 runs in the tournament, and on 911 is within striking distance of becoming the first Indian cricketer to score 1000 runs in Twenty20 cricket.

Soon after Sehwag and Gambhir had lorded it over Bangalore with a standout performance, the Delhi captain showed just what the mindset in his camp was. "It's not that the Bangalore bowlers bowled badly. Gautam and I just batted extremely well," he said, not arrogantly but candidly. If these two fire for just two more matches, a semifinal spot is likely to become a reality given the bowling attack Delhi possess.