After three horrendous season, the Daredevils have had a decent outing so far under Rahul Dravid’s mentorship and Zaheer Khan’s captaincy, having won five of their eight games and are placed third in the eight-team table.
There has been no standout performer as such but contributions from most of the players in their five victories has made it clear that Dravid’s men are certainly not dependant on any one individual to carry the team forward.
The team has set a new template taking the ‘Horses for Courses’ theory to an altogether new level with only three Indian players — leg-spinner Amit Mishra, wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson and top-order player Karun Nair getting a start in all the eight matches. All the other players have been either rested or replaced during the course of the tournament so far.
For Delhi though, the biggest question will be where would they fit their INR 8.5 crore buy Pawan Negi.
Every year, the GMR-owned franchise have had a buy that has defied logic and the player has inevitably come a cropper.
Negi’s 51 runs in six innings and a total of six overs for 65 runs in six matches without a wicket would have raised many more questions had the team repeated its dismal performances of the past editions.
On paper, Daredevils are overwhelming favourites against a Kings XI Punjab side, who have neither shown stomach for a fight nor any kind of proper homework to take on the opposition.
More so, the mistakes have been repeated, they have pressed the panic button by replacing David Miller as the skipper, which has done little to change the fortune of their team.
The positive aspect of the Daredevils team however has been their ability to stick to the basics and a testimony to the fact is five wins.
Delhi would hope Zaheer gets back into action quickly as he has managed to get early breakthroughs and has been impressive in the death overs in some of the matches.
Also his captaincy and the role of a bowling mentor that he executes in a wonderful manner was missed in the last match.
Another man who was missed is batting mainstay Quinton De Kock has been scoring runs consistently. De Kock was given a much-needed rest so that he could cope up with the gruelling schedule.
Youngsters Samson and Rishabh Pant will need to play big knocks to make an impact.
In their first leg face-off, Daredevils coasted to an eight-wicket win after restricting the opposition to 119 runs.
Punjab also have a poor track record on their home turf having lost three games, though they won one against Pune.
KXIP which looked to have gained some confidence from their 23-run win against table toppers Gujarat Lions, were quick to fritter away their advantage in their last match when they lost by seven runs chasing Kolkata Knight Rider’s score of 164.
Chinks in their batting and inconsistencies in their performance were exposed once again, something which has troubled the Punjab outfit in virtually every edition of the cash-awash league.
In the previous game against KKR played at Eden Gardens, the KXIP showed their weakness to over-depend on one or two batsmen to help them cross the line.
Fall of Glenn Maxwell, who is back in form again and looked to single handedly take the match away from KKR (42-ball 68), sealed the fate for KXIP.
Punjab recently changed their skipper, replacing Miller with Murali Vijay, apparently to take pressure off him, but the former is still struggling, and it was evident when he made only 13 of 18 balls against KKR.
Newly appointed captain Vijay also failed with the bat against KKR, even as top order batsmen like Manan Vohra and Marcus Stoinis also failed to make the cut.
Having notched up a hat-trick in the current IPL, all-rounder Axar Patel has emerged as key player for the Kings XI and the team would be once again hoping a top performance from him.
Medium pacers Sandeep Sharma, Mohit Sharma, and Stoinis’ presence bolsters the KXIP bowling, but once again much will depend on the show by their batters because on most occasions they turn out to be the villain spoiling their team’s chance.
With their Aussie batsman Shaun Marsh ruled out for the rest of the season with a back injury, it remains to be seen how much South African import Hashim Amla, who has just joined KXIP campaign, can do at this stage to boost the team’s prospects.
Delhi Daredevils: Zaheer Khan (C), Mayank Agarwal, Khaleel Ahmed, Sam Billings, Carlos Brathwait, Nathan Coulter Nile, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Akhil Harwardkar, Imran Tahir, Shreyas Iyer, Manipal Lamror, Chama Milind, Amit Mishra, Mohammad Shami, Chris Morris, Shahbaz Nadeem, Karun Nair, Pawan Negi, Rishabh Pant, Pratyush Singh, Sanju Samson, Pawan Suyal, Jayant Yadav.
Kings XI Punjab: Murali Vijay (captain), Hashim Amla, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Gurkeerat Singh, David Miller, Wriddhiman Saha, Axar Patel, Mohit Sharma, KC Cariappa, Sandeep Sharma, Anureet Singh, Armaan Jaffer, Kyle Abbott, Farhaan Behardien, Rishi Dhawan, Mitchell Johnson, Nikhil Naik, Pradeep Sahu, Swapnil Singh, Shradul Thakur and Manan Vohra.