One win in six games. A new captain. A squad that has failed, so far, to turn into a team. Delhi Daredevils find themselves in a quite unenviable situation. But, as Shreyas Iyer put it after taking over the team’s leadership from Gautam Gambhir, there is still time for the team to make something of this season. “We have eight games in hand. There are lots of us who believe.”
That belief needs to be backed up with tactical smartness. Gambhir’s resignation, and his poor batting form, suggest he is also out of Daredevils’ playing XI – Daredevils could bring in big-hitting New Zealander Colin Munro in his place, especially if Jason Roy is not fit. It gives them an opportunity to tear up their failed early-season templates and apply themselves afresh to the task of finding a way to bring the best out of what is – particularly on the batting front – still an excellent group of players.
Kolkata Knight Riders will try their hardest to prevent this from happening. The visitors have themselves underperformed, even if not to Daredevils’ extent, and their 3-3 record doesn’t quite reflect how good they have looked when they have won. Given how tight the race for the playoffs is likely to get, Knight Riders will want to string some wins together and gather some steam going into the second half of the league phase.
In the news
Jason Roy (side strain) and Chris Morris (back) missed Daredevils’ last game against Kings XI Punjab. Given the four-day gap between that match and this one, Daredevils will hope one or both of them are fit and available to play. It appears Roy has the better chance – he trained on match eve, but Morris didn’t.
Andre Russell went off the field clutching his right thigh after bowling 1.5 overs against Kings XI, but is expected to be good to go on Friday. With his hamstrings in mind, Knight Riders have looked to lighten Russell’s bowling workload this season – he didn’t bowl at all in the game before the Kings XI one, against Rajasthan Royals – and it’s possible he might play as a pure batsman if he is not 100%.
Delhi Daredevils: 1 Prithvi Shaw, 2 Colin Munro/Jason Roy, 3 Glenn Maxwell, 4 Shreyas Iyer (capt), 5 Rishabh Pant (wk), 6 Vijay Shankar, 7 Rahul Tewatia, 8 Liam Plunkett, 9 Amit Mishra, 10 Avesh Khan, 11 Trent Boult.
Kolkata Knight Riders: 1 Chris Lynn, 2 Sunil Narine, 3 Robin Uthappa, 4 Nitish Rana, 5 Dinesh Karthik (wk), 6 Andre Russell, 7 Shubman Gill, 8 Tom Curran, 9 Piyush Chawla, 10 Shivam Mavi, 11 Kuldeep Yadav.
Daredevils found a way to keep both Sunil Narine and Chris Lynn quiet, but had no answers against Andre Russell, whose breathtaking 12-ball 41 powered Knight Riders to 200. Three early wickets meant Daredevils never got going in their chase, and eventually lost by 71 runs.
Knight Riders (19.1 overs in six matches) have bowled by far the most Powerplay overs of spin of any team this season. It’s partly down to circumstances: they have lost key fast bowlers to injury, have been forced to conserve Russell’s hamstrings, and also happen to be blessed with an excellent spin attack.
With this in mind, Daredevils could look to unsettle Knight Riders by promoting their best players of spin up the order. At least two out of Rishabh Pant (T20 strike rate of 157.5 against spin since 2015), Colin Munro (142.5) and Glenn Maxwell (151.4) could bat in the top three if Daredevils adopt this strategy.
Stats that matter
Knight Riders have a 13-7 win-loss record against Daredevils, and have won four of the five most recent meetings.
Sunil Narine may well be the IPL’s MVP. According to ESPNcricinfo’s Smart Stats – ESPNcricinfo’s new set of metrics to make sense of numbers in the shortest format – he has saved Knight Riders 34.40 runs with the ball in six games this season, and scored 19.25 runs more than par.
Daredevils have lost more wickets (14) from overs 1 to 6 than any other team this season, while going at the third-worst run rate (8.05). The first thing they will need to sort out under their new captain is whom to bat at the top of the order.
Piyush Chawla is set to play his 200th T20 game.
Chris Lynn found some form against Kings XI Punjab, but his numbers against spin for this season remain poor: 60 runs off 60 balls, three dismissals.
Robin Uthappa has crossed 25 in four of his six innings this season, but hasn’t gone beyond 48 yet.
KKR’s Nitish Rana has made a case for an India call-up with his runs and poise at the crease this season, and he has chipped in with vital wickets too – averaging 33 in six innings, with a strike-rate of 135, while taking four wickets in three innings. Also, he plays for Delhi in domestic cricket and knows the Feroz Shah Kotla very well. All these factors make Rana a smart choice to have in your team.