Up in the Air

Match#30: Delhi Daredevils v/s Royal Challengers Bangalore

Ferozshah Kotla, Delhi

Form Guide: DD- Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, RCB- Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Draw, Win,

Finally, Delhi-2010 face the newer and much-not-improved Delhi-2011. The game we have all been waiting for.

As expected, just when things could not have possibly gotten any worse for these two beleaguered teams until a few days ago (read another resounding loss) the DareDevils and RCB have hit back with pent-up vengeance by turning on the style in their last game against unsuspecting opposition teams (who admittedly had taken certain things for granted not unlike the rest of the country).

When RCB unleashed their secret weapon- more commonly known as a (Gayle) storm that sweeps over a cricket game fewer times than Piyush Chawla actually taking a wicket, a high-on-confidence KKR outfit could do nothing but take over the baton of pain from the Challengers while watching Gayle stretch his legs and hands while simultaneously depositing most balls over the boundary ropes. A spark was needed- and this was much more than a mere group stage game for this outfit. Ditto for the Daredevils (more than a spark was needed- more like a small fire), whose openers finally decided to fire together and take on joint responsibility of shattering many an IPL record while batting first. That Punjab made a match out of it later was of little consequence- because the world (including yours truly) was reeling from the shock of the DareDevils being the FIRST team to shatter the 200 barrier this year, with considerable ease at that!

It was unfair, simply because 100 seemed like more of a barrier to them during their last few games (except the freak innings against Pune)- and to achieve this milestone without prior warning reeked of an ‘In-your-face-b*tches!’ message to everyone who had ever mocked their team-balance over the last few days. Me? Who? Never.

But with two freak innings over 5 games, the Daredevils have truly driven home the effectiveness of their consistently erratic explosiveness of their deceptive batting line-up (read openers).

With both teams still in a fair amount of trouble as far as the standings are concerned, this is a must-win for both if they need to develop any real chance of even making a late surge for a semi-final spot. Too early to comment? Maybe not.

One thing is for sure: Whoever loses today will cement their place at the bottom of the table. Atleast for the next few games. Curtains, effectively.

Delhi Daredevils: (Semi-finals 2008, 2009)
After promptly making most of us forcibly eat a ‘Masaledaar’ version of North-Indian Humble Pie, Delhi have now graduated to the venerable status of ‘party-crashers’ from ‘no-hopers’. A few more wins and they will be known as the ‘dark horses’. Such unique terms.

delhi daredevils
‘Warning Bells!’

Once again, David Warner and Venugopal Rao took Delhi to a respectable total (mildly put, really), and even Virender Sehwag decided to grace the occasion with a typically nonchalant knock that boasted of a unreal strike-rate. On such occasions, when Sehwag looks in a state of inner calm and makes batting look easy enough for even S. Sreesanth to contemplate holding one, it is impossible not to feel for the opposition bowlers. That this display of complete destruction by non-violence does not happen more often for Viru on the limited-overs stage is an enigma that even seems to have stumped Professor Deano.

So with the highest total of the tournament safely noted down as one of their prime achievements this year (unlikely to be trumped), Delhi can now breathe a bit easier with the gorilla of their back. They still need to win a considerable amount of games- and the only way that this looks possible is if they consistently shatter the 200 barrier- because their bowlers do not look very eager to defend totals any lesser than that.

With Ajit Agarkar (who?) and Varun Aaron (finally) making up the majority of a new-look bowling line-up, as much as Delhi would love to peak into a brighter immediate future- things do not really look that promising if their batsmen do not pull off a few more miracles.

The much-hyped Aaron has finally been revealed to the world- and even though he may not have lived up to the promise of bowling consistently at 150 kmph (Surprise, surprise…bah), he looks like doing so atleast from the first few steps of his run-up when he somehow, against all odds, manages to remain at the same position while running.
His eagerness and excitement was for everyone to see- especially when he almost came to blows with his keeper Naman Ojha every time the ball went through to him- urging Ojha to throw the ball back as soon as possible so that he can just finish his spell, er, bowl faster.

Ajit Agarkar, meanwhile, has lived up to his old reputation of continuously being tonked all over the park- but not before taking a few inconsequential wickets to make those figures look more respectable.

Player to watch out for: Virender Sehwag
The superhuman hand-eye-coordination that seems to put even Tiger Woods amorous skills to shame, is back. Not that it had ever gone anywhere- it is just that Viru decided to wake up from his extended post-World-cup nap and swing a few in the nets that coincidentally turned out to be a stadium in Punjab. If he carries on practicing like this, most other teams could be forgiven for half-contemplating the idea of even surrounding the pitch with nets just to make the experience all the more real for this Nawab of Najafgarh.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: (Finalists 2009, Semi-finalists 2010)
It is only coincidental that when Chris Gayle smashed another one through point, with 3 overs to spare, to make a total mockery of KKR’s Kallis-inspired sub-par total- Siddharth Mallya was busy sampling Deepika Padukone’s latest skin-moisturizer with his mouth. How was he to know that the cameras cared little about the monster from Jamaica, and were instead trained on him (without his horrendous white pants for a change) now that his ‘friend’ had finally made this year’s first appearance as mascot-cum-cheerleader for the Challengers.

‘Bleeding Red’

The news-channels seem to have forgotten that Gayle had just scripted a come-from-behind-slap-in-the-face performance with one innings of sheer violence and madness that also stole the dimple of SRK’s tired-looking face (with Preity promptly following a day later).

More importantly (prone to being forgotten over the wave of melancholy sweeping over Mallya’s troops), apart from the West Indians’ explosive performance, not much seemed to have changed for the Royal Challengers- especially on the bowling front. Okay, so the standard of their fielding had nowhere to go but up after their last few efforts (duly remnant of 11 Kamran Akmals without gloves)- but Zaheer Khan, like the many other Indians in the league- is feeling the effects of the long season (and wedding bells). A much-deserved rest awaits him after this tournament, and one cannot fault him for already dreaming of the beaches of Goa and S. Sreesanth in those orange bikinis. Oh, yes.

Hence, the rest of the Bangalore bowling seem to be feeling the pressure that the Indian team of the 90s consistently felt with Prasad opening the bowling and having off-days (read bowling fast sometimes)- and apart from the reliable Vettori who does not believe in conceding more than 7 an over even if means taking no wickets (Harbhajjan syndrome, or other way around?), the others including Gayle the all-rounder- are going to be the real game-breakers for this ambitious ‘King of Good Teams’.

Player to watch out for: T. Dilshan
A few days ago, it seemed impossible to include any other player other than AB De Villiers in this category. But with the arrival of Gayle, Dilshan looked much better than the tail-ender he resembled during the first five outings. Even his bowling went for less than 10 an over for a change, and this spells greater things to come from the new Sri-Lankan captain (in all forms of the game, at that). For now, a half-century combined with a wicket will do. One step at a time. (much like the entire squad seems to concentrate on doing after one of Mallya’s famed non-alcoholic beverage themed parties)

Bangalore, with their confidence back from the dumps, will look to extend their winning streak to a record ‘two’ for the first time. Coming face to face with their ‘makers’ will not deter them from displaying a high degree of ruthlessness now that Dilshan seems to have already eclipsed his entire total last year. In all probability, a streak may begin.
But the same argument could be used for Delhi too. After all, how long can we keep calling their wins (two so far) ‘aberrations’?
The buck has to stop somewhere. (currently lodged somewhere between Irfan Pathan’s waist and feet)

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