Daredevils in a must-win situation
Delhi Daredevils will have to fight against pre-tournament favourites-turned under achiever Kolkata Knight Riders as well as the natural elements in their must win Indian Premier League match here on Thursday to stay afloat for a semifinal berth.
With 12 points from 12 matches, and Mumbai Indians -- their nearest rivals on points tables -- on same points with two lesser matches, Daredevils need nothing short of a win on Thursday at the Ferozeshah Kotla.
But, with the capital city experiencing heavy downpour last night till early morning on Wednesday and 36.9 mm of rains during the past 24 hours, the highest rainfall for a day in May in the past five years, there is every possibility of weather playing spoilsport on Thursday.
Weathermen are predicting the national capital to receive thunderstorm and they say the squall-like situation is likely to continue at least till on Thursday.
Kotla ground was having pools of water at the outfield and even at bowlers' run-up area at noon on Wednesday though the pitch and close in-field area have been covered.
Curator Radhey Shyam was, however, hopeful of a match if it does not rain on Thursday and provided there is no repeat of a heavy rain like that of last night.
"I am confident the match will be on if there is no rain from on Thursday morning. This is one of the best grounds in the country in terms of drainage. We will press into service the two supersoppers and all water will disappear," he told PTI.
In that case, they have to beat Mumbai Indians in their last encounter here on Saturday and hope that Sachin Tendulkar-led side lose two of their other remaining matches.
For Knight Riders (10 points from 12 matches), a rain-abandoned match would virtually snuff out whatever small glimmer of hope they have of making to the semifinals.
If at all a match happened, Daredevils start favourite even though they had lost to the same opponents in Kolkata in the first leg.
With Sehwag and his opening partner Gautam Gambhir on a roll at the top of the order and the Kolkata team struggling to put their acts together throughout the tournament, the home team would fancy their chances if weather permits.
Sehwag knew they had to win against Knight Riders on Thursday before crossing swords with a tougher and six-in-a-row-winning Mumbai Indians.
"I am happy... We need to play really well. Performance is the key for our semifinal hopes and we need to win the remaining two matches," he said after their six-wicket win over bottom-placed Bangalore Royal Challengers on Monday.
Sehwag's Achilles' heel, though, will be the middle order despite his repeated non-chalant denial of poor show by the likes of A B de Villeirs, Shoaib Malik, Dinesh Karthik and Manoj Tiwary with the bat.
An opening 90-run stand between Sehwag and Gambhir saved the day against the Bangalore Royal Challengers with the middle order falling in a heap. Three wickets fall in a space of 11 balls and as many runs before Shikhar Dhawan and Farveez Maharoof, both consistent performers, ensured a victory.
On the bowling front, the home team seems to have the bench strength and variety and with Glenn McGrath continuing his fine form and Sri Lankan Farveez Maharoof turning out to be an unexpected asset both with the ball and bat, and may not feel the absence of Mohammed Asif who will not play due to splitting of his webbing of the fingures.
For the visiting team, they started the tournament as favourites only to turn cropper later on with their batting pulling the team down again and again.
The Kolkata team had scored 150 plus only four times and their opening pair crossing 50 only once, that too during that Brendon McCullum blitzkreig in the tournament opener.
Captain Ganguly himself has not done anything extraordinary and he has scored just 263 runs from his 12 matches with two fifties, and he is the highest run getter of his team.
The Prince of Kolkata was a disappointed man after virtually running out of reckoning in the tournament.
"We have not played well throughout the tournament. We had to defend small totals throughout. We will try to win the next two matches and see what happens," Ganguly said after losing to tabble toppers Rajasthan Royals yesterday.
Ganguly would be hoping that Shoaib Akhtar, who ripped through the Delhi top order in their earlier match with four wickets in his IPL debut but left out of the last match due to a knee problem, will be fit to play on Thursday to exploit a pitch which could assist fast bowlers.
With the capital city experiencing heavy rain, both the teams are unlikely to undergo any practice at the Kotla on Wednesday.