Friends turned IPL foes Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir will lock horns once more when Delhi take on Kolkata in the IPL Qualifier 1 on Tuesday.
Last season, the two Team India openers were in the eye of a storm after it was revealed that they played the fourth edition of the IPL despite carrying injuries. A year later, they have turned their individual fortunes around and led their teams to the top of the table in the league stage.
Not only have Sehwag and Gambhir been injury-free, they have been among runs as well. With a tally of 556 and 484 runs respectively, Gambhir and Sehwag are the leading run-getters among the teams that have made it to the playoff stage.
The Nawab of Najafgarh has often heaped praise on his younger India teammate and Gambhir has reciprocated the admiration. The left-handed batsman, who had hit a long rough patch following his domineering performances in 2007-09 on the international stage, has shown signs of recapturing his form.
Interestingly, of his overall tally of 2,146 runs, 1,115 came when playing under Sehwag in the first three seasons. Yet, he scored them at a modest average of 28.58 while the same has improved to 38.18 for Kolkata. Call it leading from the front or enjoying the responsibility, Gambhir has been as much an asset to Shah Rukh Khan’s team these last two years as Sehwag has been for Delhi.
The two teams have a 1-1 head-to-head record this season and both will take heart from the fact that their outing at Gahunje ended on a victorious note.
The pitch will again be under the scanner. The one used for the last match was notoriously slow with Kolkata successfully defending 136/4 against hosts Pune.
Although a different, better strip is expected to be used for the qualifier, it is unlikely to be a belter. It is here that the presence of Sehwag, and Warner as well, could be the difference between the two teams. Kolkata might rue a lack of batting ammunition. Jacques Kallis has been below par, at least by his standards, and Yusuf Pathan woefully out of form this season.
Delhi also have a more potent attack with Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav providing the pace boost. Their rivals will depend on the guiles of Laxmipathy Balaji and West Indies spinner Sunil Narine to curb the marauding rivals.