Twenty20 franchise cricket is as much about winning as it is about a strong brand image, built mainly around the players. It works well when there is consistency in performance and continuity with the players involved.
Across eight seasons, Delhi Daredevils have struggled to put together this package. Although they pulled off a brilliant victory over Kings XI Punjab on Friday, Delhi are still looking for ways to bind as a team.
The clash against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday will show whether the team’s new philosophy of backing young batsmen is working. It failed in the opening game against Kolkata Knight Riders while the bowlers set it up at the Kotla against Kings XI.
Challenge for Zaheer
One big question Delhi faced ahead of this IPL season was whether Zaheer Khan, surprisingly named skipper, will stay fit. By restricting the Kings XI batsmen on Friday to let leg-spinner Amit Mishra prey on their anxiety, the veteran paceman showed he still has the control for which he was renowned, although he was slow on the field.
Although T20 has been a lot about senior players doing very well, it takes a toll on pacers. Ashish Nehra was superb across two T20 series followed by the Asia Cup and the World T20, but the Sunrisers Hyderabad player broke down in the first game, against RCB at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Tuesday. That showed how big a challenge Zaheer faces on the fitness front.
Compared to Delhi, RCB had an even more slow start when they were launched in 2008. Zaheer as well as team mentor Rahul Dravid started their IPL careers at RCB, in a side that was dubbed the ‘test team’ for the lack of firepower among its batsmen.
While Bangalore rebuilt from there, Delhi have neither managed to keep players nor get the best out of them.
It is likely to be a battle between Delhi’s bowlers and RCB’s formidable batting unit. RCB’s title ambitions reflect in the solidity provided by AB de Villiers, who cut out fancy shots and still scored 82 at a strike-rate close to 200 in the win over Sunrisers.
Unlike Delhi though, RCB have had a comfortable schedule to start with --- two home games. RCB had a long batting stint on Saturday evening, useful preparation as they will play their next four games away.
The pitch will be the same as the one used for the Sunrisers game. If it plays a touch slow, leg spinner Amit Mishra, whose four wickets set up an easy win over Kings XI, could again have a say.
RCB will hope Chris Gayle gets some batting time, not having got a big score since his World T20 century against England.