The heat is on, literally. With the ambient air temperature hovering around the 43 degree Celsius mark in the Capital and other parts of India also facing the heat, playing cricket is not easy.
Yet, as teams in the Indian Premier League start focussing on the business end of the tournament, the heat is literal and figurative. In all, the teams have to play 14 matches in the league stage before separating the wheat from the chaff.
And with the weekend derby approaching, Delhi Capitals will be fancying their chances against the once formidable Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Feroze Shah Kotla on Sunday.
It has been an interesting journey for both the teams till now. In the past, RCB, led by Virat Kohli, have been favourites on paper, though, this time around, they have failed to click as a unit. Kohli was initially struggling with his own batting form before is now finding the sweet spot.
The bigger success story has been the rise of Delhi Capitals. Before the start of the season, when the team underwent changes, there was anticipation as well apprehension. Diehard fans, who have been backing erstwhile Delhi Daredevils, knew that with so many changes taking place in the team – including a change in ownership – there was a lot to look forward to.
And they have not been disappointed with Delhi Capitals now third in the points table after having played 11 matches till now. It has been a fairly consistent performance from the side, led by Shreyas Iyer.
At a time when most of the other IPL teams have heavyweights as captains, Iyer has been focussed on the job and has ensured the team goes about its task in a professional manner. Compared to Kohli, MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and R.Ashwin, Iyer may not have that halo around him. Yet, to marshal the resources on the field and ensure the team, fires have been good for the captain.
The Delhi Capitals batting has looked solid and the best part is there has been no dependence on just one player. There is star power and there are proven performers who have clicked at the right time. If Shikhar Dhawan has shown he can be devastating on his day, then the man who must be feeling ‘left out’, Rishabh Pant, has served ample notice of his explosive talent with a whiz-thud 78 against Rajasthan Royals last week.
If Dhawan and Pant, two batsmen who can decimate the rival attack have been playing to potential, the job is still unfinished. Delhi Capitals have to play three more league matches and are looking at topping the table so that they will be placed comfortably in the playoffs.
While one has always known Dhawan to be a batsman with enormous potential in breaking down the bowlers, Pant has come under great scrutiny. The experts and armchair critics never minced words when they said Pant needs to curb his strokeplay. Yet, when Pant goes about his demolition job and scores runs, the same critics start singing praise.
Delhi Capitals have the potential to do well in future matches as big knocks from Iyer and Prithvi Shaw are also due. Iyer was circumspect while talking to the media on Friday about his team’s chances on Friday ahead of the marquee clash against RCB.
If Delhi’s batting has looked solid despite the occasional collapse, in the bowling department, Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morrison have bowled with a large heart. For all those who have watched matches at the Kotla, the wicket has been very poor. With no grass on the track and it resembling a runway fit for an aeroplane to land, there has been a low bounce. Perhaps, the home advantage has been used well by Delhi Capitals with Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly quite vocal in backing the youngsters in the side.
Delhi would do well to play the way are till now and not get defensive at this stage. For a team to undergo a big shakeup and come together with new players has been impressive.
At a time when the IPL is being held at the same time as the general elections, it is good matches are being held on the prescribed old home-and-away format. There is great interest in both elections and the IPL, with one former captain also entering the fray — Gautam Gambhir.
Controversies have been part and parcel of the IPL and even today, R.Ashwin “Mankading” Jos Butler is being debated. At a time when Ashwin may not have found too many supporters from fellow cricketers in India, the Kings XI Punjab skipper has been fully backed by well-known umpire Simon Taufel in a well-articulated column in a cricket website.
The sport needs characters who can stir the spot. So, be it Ashwin involved in a controversy or MS Dhoni entering the field and arguing with the umpires, the IPL is all about club cricket being played at a fever pitch!