Roll back to 2009. Delhi Daredevils, then led by Virender Sehwag, topped the points table ahead of the semifinals, and then ran into Adam Gilchrist at his best to go down to Deccan Chargers by six wickets. Since then, Daredevils has progressed past the group stage just once, in 2012. In the last six seasons, it has languished at the sixth position or lower.
It’s now nearly 10 years since that contest. Hyderabad is seven seasons into its new avatar, and Delhi is new and fresh, too. Now known as Delhi Capitals, the club from the national capital hopes to turn its fortunes around and clinch a title win for a change. Yet, with two losses out of four games — including a tame batting surrender in the last contest against Kings XI Punjab — and with the potent Rashid Khan ready to exploit the slow pitch at the Feroz Shah Kotla, a win still looks quite far away.
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That Capitals is smarting from the loss on Tuesday was evident by the reaction to it from Mohammad Kaif, the assistant coach. On Wednesday, he admitted his team had “broken hearts” after having fluffed the opportunity of posting a win when, at one stage, it required 23 runs from 20 deliveries with seven wickets in hand.
The task of finishing of an innings has appeared to be difficult for the side. Is this its achilles heel? The poor finishing has cost the team two losses so far; and nearly cost it a third, against Kolkata Knight Riders last week.
Colin Ingram and Chris Morris, both of whom bat in the lower middle-order presumably for short, sharp bursts of aggression, have failed to fire so far, and at the top of the order, Shikhar Dhawan has been among the runs but without his aggressive punch.
Its wins have not been crafted by any combined batting effort; instead, they have come via one-man shows — Rishabh Pant, against Mumbai Indians; and Prithvi Shaw, against Knight Riders.
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Sunrisers, on the other hand, has been well served by its top-order batsmen, so much so that its middle-order has hardly been tested. Opener David Warner, with scores of 85, 69 and 100 not out in his first three matches, is now the highest run-getter. Jonny Bairstow, his opening partner, is close behind him, occupying the second place.
Rashid, its star leg-spinner, hasn’t been prolific, but he has maintained an economy rate of 6.50 or below in all the three matches he has participated in so far. At the Feroz Shah Kotla, however, the pitch may be a lot slower than in Hyderabad — he will have more leeway to spin a web and trick batsmen out.
For variety, off-spinner Mohammad Nabi can be unleashed as well. Nabi, from Afghanistan like Rashid, starred in his 118-run victory over Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday and is likely to get a game again, on Thursday.
For Capitals, Sandeep Lamichhane, the leg-spinner, is likely to be a part of the spin unit alongside Amit Mishra. Mishra has been expensive in the two matches he has played — both at the Feroz Shah Kotla — and will like to be more frugal on Thursday.
With the form Sunrisers’ top-order batsmen are in, Capitals will want to dismiss them early. Kaif tried to sound optimistic when pointing out the middle-order could be exposed, but for a side low on confidence, it will not be easy to turn it around.