Delhi Daredevils has nothing left at stake. It has five matches in hand but has reached a dead end in this edition of the Indian Premier League. What a fall from the previous year when Daredevils had finished the league stage at the top with 11 victories.
In comparison, Rajasthan Royals has improved considerably, with seven victories thus far and plenty of motivation to go the distance. It has won all the six ‘home’ matches and looked a team with a vision, thanks to a wonderful leader in Rahul Dravid.
Daredevils may not have achieved its goal this time. The reasons have been plenty. Loss of form of some key players and the unavailability, from the first match, of game-changers like Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder dented the team’s campaign hugely.
Virender Sehwag missing the first three matches hurt Daredevils the most but the biggest letdown has been Irfan Pathan, a flop with the bat and the ball.
An acute shortage of options, so sorely seen in Pathan’s presence, left Daredevils licking its wounds match after match. Pathan’s selection in the Indian team must have been an ironical acceptance of the fact that lack of choice benefitted this non-performing ‘all-rounder’. His ‘achievement’ in this IPL has been an awful 90 runs and seven wickets in 11 matches, yet, he continues to win the faith of the National selectors and Daredevils because there is no other all-rounder available.
Rajasthan Royals has profited from the playing conditions at home. It has had the pitch of its desire, something Daredevils have only craved for, and improved with every match on the strength of near-perfect combination.
Shane Watson, Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane have been the key scorers with Brad Hodge, Sanju Vishwanadh and Stuart Binny making some critical contributions to keep the team in with a chance.
James Faulkner and Kevon Cooper have excelled with the ball, the latter in patches, but fielding and batting have been the strong points of Rajasthan Royals.
Daredevils can only look to play the spoilsport. Team work, or collective strength as Dravid would like to say, is the difference between Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils when they meet at the SMS Stadium here on Tuesday.