Will the Old Boys Club rear its angry head again? The stuttering Delhi Daredevils, rejuvenated by a grassy side strip at the Ferozeshah Kotla which gives their strokeplayers and seamers a fair chance, run into three former club loyalists in the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday. Given the recent trend of players taking on their former clubs with the bat – think Chris Gayle against KKR, Valthaty against Royals, Gilly against KXIP – which angry young man will Delhi run into here in their next game?
RCB skipper Daniel Vettori, now-Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan, the sensational AB de Villiers and even the injured Dirk Nannes were core squad members of the Devils till last season, and unfortunately the mass churning at the last auction hasn’t gone down well for either team since then. “We know it’s a recent trend but trends are there to be broken,” laughed Daredevils coach Greg Shipperd, ahead of Tuesday’s game against RCB at the Kotla.
“It’s almost half the old Delhi team, isn’t it? It’s old Delhi versus new Delhi. They were our valued players. We tried to keep them in auctions but couldn’t afford them. There are lots of familiar faces and they’re on very familiar territory. But we hope to develop some momentum. We got our combination right in the last game.”
And then there’s Chris Gayle, feeling scorned and lonesome and itching to get some action after being ignored at the auctions, being dumped by KKR and generally given the cold shoulder by the West Indies cricket board. “If he gets going there’s very little you can do,” said a grim Shipperd, “We hope to catch the first nick. But Gayle won’t be our only focus.”
The curators are preparing the same track which saw 433 runs and 23 sixes being walloped in the game against Kings XI. All the strips were being watered on Sunday evening and RCB had to wait for Monday to train out in the middle, but curator Venkat Sundaram said the watering had been stopped on the side strip to prevent undue seam movement. “There’s a way to prepare a grassy pitch for batsmen too, hence less watering,” he said, adding that with more matches being played, the side strip too would lose its zest.
“The top soil and grass is bound like cake, it’s perfect,” he added, “It has only been possible because virtually no cricket has been played on this strip and we’ve been very careful with the rolling.”
Shipperd said Delhi would “like” to field an all-seam attack again, but don’t rule out a return for left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem.
This time, though, there are ferocious strokeplayers on either side, but the RCB bowlers, including the out-of-sorts Zaheer, need to be on their guard. Both teams are wallowing in the lower half of the points tally, with two wins so far, in spite of boasting some power-packed batsmen. Shipperd said it was the nature of the T20 beast. “There is a reliance on the top four. If they fail, then the game is in the balance. The openers are the best-placed to exploit the Powerplays and set a big total.”
Delhi will be hoping their firecrackers are louder and last longer.