The big gun won’t fire for Delhi Daredevils on Thursday. As the revamped team prepared for a fresh season, it was their newly anointed skipper, Kevin Pietersen, who made all the news.
It was less about his prodigious talent and more about the man sacked as England’s batting lynchpin being acknowledged as a leader in the IPL.
Pietersen is yet to recover from a finger injury and will not play in the high-voltage opening clash against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Sharjah.
“He didn’t play in the practice match and he is still a few days away, so he won’t be considered for tomorrow,” bowling coach Eric Simons said.
“It’s a setback. It’s a difficult situation, but what we did when we put together the team at the auction is we got cover for every area. I think we have more than ample replacements in terms of who will be considered. That is one of the strengths of the squad we put together,” he added.
The game would have been the first big shootout of this season, but fans might get to watch only RCB’s big-hitters Chris Gayle, skipper Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
Delhi will hope Ross Taylor, Dinesh Karthik, the nominated vice-captain, Quinton de Kock and Laxmi Ratan Shukla buckle down to the task.
But it will make Daredevils coach Gary Kirsten’s IPL debut a bigger challenge. Having discarded the likes of Virender Sehwag and Mahela Jayawardene, DD would have hoped Pietersen was there to guide the new-look side.
“It’s obviously tough. He has a big role to play for us and it’s disappointing,” Simons added.
Last year, it was a knee injury that curtailed his IPL stint. Despite the England camp seeing him as disruptive, Pietersen has been one of the popular foreign players in the league, and a positive influence among his team mates.
Delhi will need all that and more having brought up the ninth and last spot in the table last year.
Even the most unsettled, and subsequently unhinged, Pune Warriors, finished ahead. RCB will also have to do a lot better than the fifth place they finished in 2013.
It will be the first game involving India players at the Sharjah stadium for a long, long time. That will mean close scrutiny of every bit of action in the game.