A lot has changed since Team Delhi and Team Kolkata met in the first leg of the IPL. Delhi, from being an underdog, have since emerged as the best team in the tournament so far.
Kolkata – who were in the last four of the previous edition – too are delivering the goods. But when the Shah Rukh Khan-owned franchisee take on Delhi at Ferozeshah Kotla on Monday evening, they will face a big challenge against the dangerous hosts who are virtually in the play-offs. If Virender Sehwag and his men can tame Kolkata – like the way they did at the Eden Gardens at the start of IPL 5 – Delhi will be first team to ensure a place in the play-offs. Besides, Delhi would want to keep winning to maintain a good habit.
Delhi are not leaving any stone unturned. On Sunday afternoon, the team went all out as it honed its skills. To begin with, emphasis was given on fielding before the players got into other areas of the game. There was an air of excitement as the players went about the drills. It was clear they were a confident lot, enjoying their success and feeling threatened by no one.
In the past IPL editions, many teams who eventually went on to become champions really didn’t have a smooth run in the league phase like the way Delhi are having. But every IPL has also thrown up some new trends. Team Delhi will take heart from that.
For a league like IPL which is played over a long period of almost two months, sustaining and playing consistent cricket is not easy. However, if a team has all-round strength and depth, it certainly has an advantage over the others. Delhi’s batting department is one of the best even after England’s Kevin Pietersen left to attend to national duty. The pace department too carries a lot of venom.
The only missing link was the lack of quality spinners. But the performances of Delhi’s left-arm bowlers – Shahbaz Nadeem and Pawan Negi – have been pleasant surprises.
Kolkata too have a well-equipped unit and that is why this team is doing well. Their middle-order batting may have succumbed to pressure in the past, but the overall look of the team so far has been quite satisfying. They are batting hard, bowling in the right areas and taking those important catches when it matters the most. The one advantage Kolkata have over Delhi is in the form of mystery spinner Sunil Narine. How effective he will be at the Kotla with its smallish boundaries remains to be seen.