IPL 2018: Under-achievers begin campaign seeking fresh start

Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab, who lock horns on Sunday, have a lot to prove in a format that demands exacting consistency and tactical acumen to outsmart the opponents.

Two under-achievers of the Indian Premier League (IPL) look to redeem their reputation on a turf that promises to test their resilience and ability to innovate at the PCA Stadium here. Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab have a lot to prove in a format that demands exacting consistency and tactical acumen to outsmart the opponents. Both claim they have the firepower. It is the right channel that Daredevils and Kings XI pursue.

Two semifinal slots is what Daredevils can boast of in the first 10 years of the tournament. Kings XI finished runner-up in 2014. Both teams begin on a rousing note with tall claims only to whither away as the tournament progresses. Could it be different this time?

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Daredevils has a team devoid of glamour. “We have invested in youth,” said assistant coach Pravin Amre. Kings XI coach Brad Hodge termed his team a “dangerous” proposition and promised “high standard” cricket from the combination which has some trusted performers — Yuvraj Singh and Chris Gayle — who would need to shed the recent rust that has crept into their batting.

Kings XI Punjab’s new captain R. Ashwin bowls during a practice session at the PCA Stadium in Mohali.   -  PTI

 

The tournament has evolved and Hodge acknowledged the pressure to plan new tactics. “A score of 250 could become regular (in T20). Batsmen take their chances but then bowlers can also work on their craft. I must say the levels of batting have become very high,” said Hodge.

‘New strategies’ for Daredevils

For Daredevils, the loss of Kagiso Rabada impacts the bowling even though the team can expect his replacement Liam Plunkett’s experience to help the young bowlers. “We have some new strategies in mind. We have some fine performers but essentially we are a fearless unit,” asserted Amre.

 

Daredevils’ focus is on a balanced combination with no individual under scrutiny to deliver.

Gayle, the veteran Kings XI entertainer, holds the record for the fastest century in T20 cricket and young Rishabh Pant, tipped to scorch the cricket fields in times to come, is the brand ambassador of Daredevils batting strength. Explosive knocks from either, or both, can light up the contest on Sunday.

Daredevils believes in building the momentum through the ranks. For Kings XI, the philosophy is marked by mentor Virender Sehwag’s philosophy. “We have players who hit fours and sixes and don’t believe in singles,” said Sehwag.

As Hodge observed, aggression is welcome as long as players don’t cross the line. There is a Fair Play Award to be won, too. A combination of entertainment and competition beckons the spectators to this game which starts at 4 p.m.