Daredevils ready for Royal clash
Virender Sehwag-led Delhi Daredevils will lock horns with Shane Warne's Rajasthan Royals at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds in New Delhi in their opening match of the Indian Premier League on Saturday.
With its fast-paced nature and little recovery time in the quickest version of the game, it would be a difficult to predict the favourites but one thing is sure that fans will be treated to a wholly new experience even as the two teams are set to scorch the flood-lit ground.
Although, it appears the Daredevils have the edge with South Africans Graeme Smith and Morne Morkel and Pakistanis Younis Khan and Kamran Akmal missing from the Rajathan Royals' squad. The South Africans are featuring in their domestic Twenty20 tournament while the Pakistanis are playing a home ODI series against Bangladesh.
The Daredevils may also feel the absence of Protea AB de Villiers, Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik and his national team-mate Mohammad Asif [Images].
In the city-loyalty cricket, fans also face a stern test ahead regarding how they react to the teams comprising highly paid international stars as well as talented greenhorns after passionately supporting the Indian team for years.
Besides, it will be interesting to watch Warne and his ex-teammate Glenn McGrath in different team colours while India's Munaf Patel or Mohammad Kaif locking horns against compatriots Sehwag or Gautam Gambhir in what is being projected as a cocktail of high-quality night cricket packaged with entertainment.
The absence of a couple of stars seemed to have favoured the Daredevils than the Royals and Greg Shipperd's boys would want to prove that they have the balance and bench strength in their squad, a claim Sehwag had emphasised before the tournament.
"I think we have the balance in the side, we have players to cover any department whether batting or bowling. Let the tournament start, I think we are one of the best sides," Sehwag had said while rubbishing suggestions that his side was one of the weakest.
They have Gambhir, who was the highest scorer among Indians in the Twenty20 World Cup, besides Sehwag himself and McGrath, Kiwi Daniel Vettori in bowling department with Sri Lankan Farveez Maharoof and youngsters Manoj Tiwary and Pradeep Sangwan to back up.
This though would benefit the local players and it is interesting to see Sehwag field maximum quota of four foreign players.
Rajasthan Royals, on the other hand, will be hit hard by the absence of Smith -- though retired Australian Darren Lahmann has been drafted in -- Younis and Akmal and it will be interesting to see how captain and coach Warne juggles his final XI.
It will also be interesting to see the form of the two captains Sehwag and Warne in the shortest format of the game, especially so for the latter.
Warne, who just retired from international cricket after captaining English county Hampshire, has long stopped from playing ODIs, leave alone Twenty20 and he will be severely tested in his bowling as well as fielding.
Warne, the champion spinner who combines as captain and coach, will also be tested to a lesser extent how he handles players of different countries.
For Sehwag, it has not been a great Twenty20 World Cup last year and he has not been firing in ODIs also but he is always unpredictable just like his batting style and the Delhi crowd would be hoping to tear apart Royals bowlers to get full points in the campaign opener.
McGrath, has been the toast of the town right after he landed but the retired bowling legend will be severely tested in this format of the game and it will not be easy to adapt to the rigours of Twenty20 cricket.
This is also the perfect platform for young players from both sides like Shikhar Dhawan, Yo Mahesh, Pradeep Sangwan, Mayank Tehlan from Daredevils and Ravindra Jadeja, Taruwar Kohli, Pankaj Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Siddharth Trivedi from Royals to prove their worth in the tournament to be telecast in prime time in the country and throughout the world.