The beautiful HPCA stadium, surrounded by the serene Dhauladhar ranges, has the perfect ambience for an IPL match. But the showdown may not be as perfect as Kings XI Punjab are up against struggling and depleted Delhi Daredevils.
The hosts wouldn’t mind that as they still have an outside chance of making the knockouts by winning all the three matches on the Dharamsala leg of their hectic schedule.
After comprehensive wins over Mumbai Indians and Kochi Tuskers, KXIP have come back strongly into contention and as luck would have it, they run into a team which is languishing at the bottom and are now without their skipper and batting mainstay Virender Sehwag.
As they have the momentum, one would expect KXIP to take Delhi Daredevils in their stride on Sunday, before coming up against tougher opponents in Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday. They end their league campaign with a clash against Deccan Chargers on May 21.
DD coach Greg Shipperd, who met the media in the hotel lobby in McLeodganj, was asked about the motivation for his struggling team at the fag end of the tournament. “We may be among the bottom placed, but every match in the IPL is a challenge and we will give off our best. It also gives us the opportunity to try out some fringe players.”
KXIP skipper Adam Gilchrist is far from complacent as he knows one slip and his team’s hopes of making the playoffs will come to an abrupt end.
“Delhi may be without Viru, but we cannot take them lightly. They still have quality players and can upset our plans. After defeating MI and Kochi in their dens, we have got back to our winning ways. Hopefully we can maintain that in the last three games.”
Even if KXIP win the last three games, their qualification will depend on the results of the teams placed above them. Mumbai Indians, Chennai Super Kings and RCB as of now look well on the way while the fourth and final play-off berth is wide open.