Will jolted Daredevils resume its dominance over Kings XI?

Delhi Daredevils, fresh from a jolt received when its rest-and-test policy came undone against Rising Pune Supergiants, faces Kings XI Punjab, a team languishing at the bottom of the points table, at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium on Saturday.

Delhi Daredevils played poorly on Thursday without the services of Zaheer Khan as bowler and captain.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Skippers and coaches in the Indian Premier League never get tired of explaining the importance of 'momentum'. Winning combinations are seldom changed, unless forced by injuries. Dramatic changes are not made until a team has won eight matches and ensured a place in the playoffs.

However, on Thursday night, Delhi Daredevils sacrificed the 'momentum' when its experimental combination, mainly without skipper Zaheer Khan, Quinton de Kock and Chris Morris, lost as expected to Rising Pune Supergiants. Considering Delhi still needs three victories from six outings to be in the playoffs, its rest-and-test policy was surprisingly applied on a day when Zaheer was reportedly nursing a ‘niggle’.

The decision to rest some of the other players in view of the long duration of the league clearly appeared premature after just seven matches. After all, these professional cricketers are expected take the much more load in this format. Even stand-in skipper JP Duminy admitted that the new combination did not work against Pune.

When Daredevils takes on host Kings XI Punjab here on Saturday, it remains to be whether its experiments with team selection continue. On the eve of the match, Daredevils chose to rest while Kings XI held optional ‘nets’.

Kings XI, firmly in the cellar after six defeats from eight matches, will have the services of Hashim Amla as a replacement for Shaun Marsh. The Australian is ruled out for the season following a sprained back. Amla, ignored during the auction, had a good hit at the 'nets'. The South African's consistency, in fact in all three formats, should give Kings XI ample hopes of a platform for the yet-to-fire middle-order.

Indeed, the host is running out of time to resurrect its fortunes this season. The team is low on confidence after losing a series of close battles. The defeat at Eden Gardens on Wednesday was yet another heart-breaker for a side that made a dramatic comeback but got it all wrong at the business-end of the contest.

Under Murali Vijay, the team has shown more promise but it’s time some of the leading names played match-winning roles in the coming days. In fact, over the next three days here, Kings XI plays twice. Defeats to Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore will confirm Kings XI’s exit from the race for a place in the playoffs.

Softened up by RPS, Daredevils needs to stay away from experiments and return to winning ways with its best possible combination. For Kings XI, on the brink of elimination, it is a matter of playing to its potential to stay alive in the competition.

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