Can cornered RPS break Delhi's momentum?

After injuries to four key foreign players amid six losses in eight matches, Rising Pune Supergiants faces an uphill task in emerging successful in its upcoming IPL encounter against second-placed Delhi Daredevils.

Rising Pune Supergiants will have to move on from the omission of Steve Smith (first from left) and Faf du Plessis (first from right) in its stumbling IPL campaign.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

At present, Delhi Daredevils’ win-loss record of 5-2 is the best so far in this year’s Indian Premier League. Rising Pune Supergiants’ 2-6 is the worst. Going by form and fitness of the players involved in these teams, Delhi should be considered firm favourite to win on Wednesday.

But can Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s unsettled combination get its act together against a performing side? Well, it appears improbable but not impossible. The only team to lose six times this season, Pune, started its campaign as one of the balanced teams. But injuries to Kevin Pietersen, Faf du Plessis, Mitchell Marsh and Steve Smith has truly left Dhoni too much to deal with on the fitness front.

So far, former skipper of the Australian T20 squad George Bailey and compatriot Usman Khwaja have reinforced the squad. But that should only solve part of the problem faced by Dhoni. After the four leading overseas recruits found themselves on the casualty list and returned home, the team lacks strength in its batting. Notwithstanding the presence of Ajinkya Rahane and Dhoni, the team no longer has performers to intimidate the opposition.

On the brighter side, the bowling looks a shade better. Though each of the six defeats for RPS followed after it batted first, the bowlers were not as much responsible for the defeat. It was more a case of the batsmen not going beyond par scores. Even after promising starts, the team has not been able to set up imposing targets.

In form

Delhi, on the other hand, has gradually risen to the second spot on the points table. What should boost the confidence of the team is the fact that it has avenged the defeats to defending champion Mumbai Indians and table-topper Gujarat Lions in great style. In addition, much against the trend this season, Delhi successfully defended totals against Mumbai and Kolkata.

As compared to other teams, a starless Delhi has so far performed far beyond expectations. It needs three more victories, from seven matches, to seal a place in the playoffs.

On Thursday, Pune can be expected to come hard at Delhi. The visiting team cannot afford to be too defensive since two more defeats will end its aspirations of reaching the playoffs. Dhoni’s calm demeanour could well be in sharp contrast to the youthful exuberance of the Delhi brigade, under the experienced Zaheer Khan.

At the halfway stage of the campaign, Zaheer finds himself in a much happier state than he was at the start. Now it will be interesting to see how the team deals with the tag of ‘favourite’ against Dhoni’s men.

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