Upbeat DD takes on KXIP

Delhi Daredevils experimented a lot with its playing XI last season and, even though it is early days yet, leg-spinner Amit Mishra admitted it was looking to get its core players settled as soon as possible.

Delhi Daredevils captain Zaheer Khan with his team-mates during a practice session on the eve of the match against KXIP at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground in New Delhi.   -  R. V. Moorthy

Delhi Daredevils has often been labelled the most inconsistent side in the Indian Premier League. The team kept its reputation, failing to reach 150 in its opening game (against RCB) this season and then winning by a massive 97 runs next (against Pune). It's first home game on Saturday, taking on Kings XI Punjab, would be a test of whether the team can keep the winning momentum.

That would depend on whether the team's bowling unit, arguably one of the best in the competition, can keep firing and whether its youth brigade continues to come good with the bat. In the absence of Shreyas Iyer and the failure of the top order to score big, the onus of scoring so far has fallen on the likes of Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson, both talented but battling their own demons. Karun Nair, Aditya Tare and Sam Billings are yet to fire, Carlos Brathwaite failed with both bat and ball and the Daredevils' batting remains restricted to the top six-seven.

The team experimented a lot with its playing XI last season and, even though it is early days yet, leg-spinner Mishra admitted it was looking to get its core players settled as soon as possible. “Initially everyone tries to experiment and work out what could be a good combination, check the form and mindset, we would also be looking to do that.

“(But) too much of experiment can work against the team. Sometimes it does happen that when your team is doing well, tinkering doesn’t click going forward (and) you don’t have too much time to plan in T20. The sooner we can come up with our playing XI, the better. As of now, we are making sure that everyone is on the same level,” the senior player said on the eve of the match.

But the veteran also agreed that his team's approach would be built around its bowling. Even in the lost game against RCB, the bowling unit did well to restrict the opposition to 150-odd runs. At home, on a pitch that stays low and slow, Mishra and Shahbaz Nadeem would have to lead the attack. Pacers Kagiso Rabada and Mohammed Shami are yet to play and either is likely to get a chance on Saturday.

KXIP, on the other hand, was blown away by KKR in its last outing after two big wins and would be looking to regain control. With an explosive batting line-up led by Glenn Maxwell, it has the firepower to regroup. Add to it the fact that mentor Virender Sehwag has played all his life at this ground, as has Ishant Sharma, and the visitor has enough inside knowledge of the playing conditions. The team, arriving in the city only late on Friday evening from Kolkata, decided to skip training.

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Shreyas Iyer declared fit

Delhi Daredevils got a shot in the arm with Shreyas Iyer being cleared to play in the remaining matches. Iyer practised with the team here, knocking fairly comfortably in the nets, but a decision on whether he would be considered for the game would be made only later. The Mumbai batsman had missed the opening two games after being down with chicken-pox.

Amit Mishra confirmed Iyer's availability but not his playing Saturday's game. “Shreyas has come back into the squad and has been batting in the nets. He is available to play but we will have to see the combinations and requirements/composition before the final XI is decided,” he said.

The inability of his Mumbai team-mate Aditya Tare to get the runs so far, though, could mean Iyer getting a chance to open the innings instead. “I think our youngsters have a good opportunity. There is no pressure on them, they have the freedom to play (their game)”, Mishra added. Even Karun Nair hasn't clicked, though he has batted only once, and Delhi may be tempted to go in with an extra batsman in Iyer.