This hasn’t been Delhi Capitals' tournament as yet. They are yet to be able to field their best XI for different reasons. They have made some baffling decisions that have caused their own undoing. They are yet to find any consistency with both bat and ball.
Overall, they have been far from replicating the success of their preceding seasons where they qualified for the playoffs three years in a row. Now, they are also the first side to be struck down by Covid in their camp. First, it was their physio Patrick Farhart. Later, Mitchell Marsh, after nursing his injured hip, returned a positive test which restricted the team to their base in Mumbai. Hence, their fixture against Punjab Kings has been shifted from Pune to the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.
Only three wins in their five games thus far have placed them eighth in the points table. Punjab, however, are not placed well themselves. Their fifty-fifty record has got only them as far as number seven. Opting for a boom or bust style, they have followed every win with a defeat.
This isn’t the end of the world though for any of these two sides. In fact, they are far from it. But in a 10-team tournament, the time will run out sooner than in the traditional 8-team IPL.
The move to Brabourne
The shift to the Brabourne might be exactly what this clash needed. Both sides are loaded with power-hitters and Brabourne has been a goldmine for batters. The average run-rate here this season has been 9.6 runs per over which is nearly a run more than any other venue. It enables the stronger suite of both sides to lock horns. When it is batting, it is generally an enthralling sight for the fans. Liam Livingstone will eye it as an opportunity to continue riding the wave of his excellent form.
Not to forget, Delhi have won both their games here while Punjab almost pulled off the same but were left bewildered by Rahul Tewatia’s panache to do the unthinkable.
Delhi’s middle-order muddle
Most of Delhi’s batting this year has been done by their openers. The pair of Prithvi Shaw and David Warner have put on a 50-run stand in all three games they have opened together. Moving forward, however, they haven’t found the same consistency.
Delhi’s openers have batted at a strike-rate of 149.8, the highest among all sides while averaging 33.1. But when it comes to number three, four and five, the strike-rate drops to the bottom of the ladder among the 10 sides - to 119.1. The average plummets to 24.8.
They have played musical chairs with the number three slot without any result. Rishabh Pant is the only batter to do something of note in the middle-order but even he has played two innings of negative impact. The openers have scored nearly 38% of the team runs. How they change it will be key against a side like Punjab that can bat their opposition out of the game on their best days.
Kings’ number 7 slot up for grabs
Odean Smith as a bowling all-rounder hasn’t provided Punjab anything. He has an economy of 11.9 runs per over for only six wickets in six matches. His batting average languishes at 17 for a strike-rate of 115.9.
Punjab’s idea is to manufacture something out of power-hitting and use him as a working fifth bowling option. However, that has not worked so far, allowing their opponents a loophole in their bowling arsenal to attack. Given Punjab have multiple options for a seam bowling all-rounder, is it time up for Smith?
It is not easy to be the aggressor in an opening stand where your opening partner is Prithvi Shaw. But that is exactly what Warner did in the previous game with his ballistic 66. It wasn’t his first fifty of the season but the way he took off was the confirmation that the southpaw has struck peak form.
Punjab will be wary of Delhi’s opening stand. The youngster Vaibhav Arora has swung the new ball effectively but the onus will be on Kagiso Rabada. The South African has dismissed Warner five times in T20 cricket for 96 runs in 71 balls. The seamer is yet to hit the full tilt this season and this is a pretty opportunity to fulfill his potential.
With Mitchell Marsh in hospital, Delhi might go back to Sarfaraz Khan. There is also the option of Tim Seifert or Mandeep Singh.
Prithvi Shaw, David Warner, Sarfaraz Khan, Rishabh Pant (c & wk), Rovman Powell, Lalit Yadav, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Kuldeep Yadav, Mustafizur Rahman, Khaleel Ahmed
After taking a break to nurse his injured toe, Mayank Agarwal can be expected to return to the side. Prabhsimran Singh will make way for him. Smith is the other possible change with options lying in Rishi Dhawan and Benny Howell. The former getting a chance would allow Punjab to play both Jonny Bairstow and Bhanuka Rajapaksa in the XI. However, Jitesh Sharma has done fine at number five.
Mayank Agarwal (c), Shikhar Dhawan, Jonny Bairstow, Liam Livingstone, Jitesh Sharma/Bhanuka Rajapaksa (wk), Shahrukh Khan, Odean Smith/Rishi Dhawan, Kagiso Rabada, Rahul Chahar, Vaibhav Arora, Arshdeep Singh
Venue: Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai
Date & Time: Apr 20, 07:30 PM IST
*stats prior to Match 31