IPL 2018: Well-rested KKR faces desperate Daredevils

As things stand, Daredevils is staring down the barrel. Needing seven wins from eight matches, for a place in the playoffs, the team can hardly afford to do much wrong.

KKR will settle nothing less than a triumph over the struggling host.   -  AP

Just when Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) came calling, Gautam Gambhir was no longer the man-in-charge of Delhi Daredevils (DD). For the man, who has captained both teams, it could feel a bit strange to be a part of Friday’s clash without the responsibilities of a skipper.

As things stand, Daredevils is staring down the barrel. Needing seven wins from eight matches, for a place in the playoffs, the team can hardly afford to do much wrong. At this point, new captain Shreyas Iyer could bring about a change of luck.

Iyer, who almost single-handedly took Daredevils past Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), the other night, is expected to follow the directions of coach Ricky Ponting to the hilt. Unlike Gambhir, known to be his own boss, the Mumbai-youngster can also draw from the comfort-level he shares with batting coach Pravin Amre.

 

The team management can find it difficult to continue with an off-form Gambhir. In his own admission, as captain, Gambhir dropped players after a couple of poor performances and could not justify his own continued presence in the team.

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Therefore, it should not come as a surprise if Gambhir graciously opts out of the Thursday’s match and makes it easier for Ponting and Iyer to induct a fresh talent from the bench. However, if Colin Munro is included, Daredevils will have to drop either Glenn Maxwell or Daniel Christian, since pacers Trent Boult and Liam Plunkett look certainties.

Moreover, Daredevils will have to raise the performance bar in the batting and fielding departments. The team’s self-belief is understandably low. In these circumstances, batting first appears as a good idea. If the top-order batsmen capitalise on brisk starts, stitch partnerships and set up big totals in the coming games, Daredevils could stay in contention for the playoffs, for a bit longer.

In contrast, a well-rested Kolkata has no such worries. Returning to action after six days, following the nine-wicket drubbing at the hands of Kings XI, KKR will settle for nothing less than a triumph over the struggling host. When the teams met 11 days back, Kolkata cruised to a comfortable 71-run victory, after bowling out Daredevils in under 15 overs.

Going by the slow nature of the Kotla pitch, another low-scoring match cannot be ruled out. Both teams, one more desperate than the other, need some momentum going their way, before it’s too late.