Delhi Capitals and Punjab Kings are still trying to figure out their right combination and would be eager to turn things around after suffering a defeat in their respective last encounters. Delhi lost a close game against Rajasthan Royals, while Punjab were blown away by Chennai Super Kings. Led by two of the most exciting Indian wicketkeeper-batsmen - Rishabh Pant and KL Rahul, the two teams will come face to face in Match 11 of the Indian Premier League 2021 on Sunday (April 18).
The two franchises are yet to win an IPL title and would be desperate to lift the silverware this season. They won their respective season openers but couldn't build on that momentum. Delhi will be excited with the return of Anrich Nortje and there is a rousing possibility of him bowling alongside Kagiso Rabada and Chris Woakes on the Wankhade surface. Meanwhile, Punjab messed up against Chennai in the batting department and they can't afford to do that because of their straightforward team combination.
BEWARE OF THE NEW BALL
"The surface was a lot more sticky and tacky than what it looked like. Last game we got 220, this game we couldn't get even half of it," said Rahul after Punjab could only manage 106/8 against CSK on Friday. The first two matches played at the Wankhade Stadium were high scoring but that hasn't been the case in the last two games. There's a bit of movement with the new ball and the batsmen have struggled big time in the first six overs. Rajasthan and Delhi lost three wickets each in the powerplay on Thursday, while Punjab were reduced to 26/4 by the end of the powerplay.
Punjab are playing with a straightforward combination - six frontline batsmen and five bowlers. They have got two overseas all-rounders in Moises Henriques and Fabian Allen, but for one of them to play, they will have to compromise either in their batting department or bowling. If you have someone like Jhye Richardson batting at No. 7, you can't afford to lose early wickets. Rahul was unfortunately run out against Chennai but the team management will want Mayank Agarwal and Nicholas Pooran to hit the ground running as soon as possible.
Shahrukh Khan was the only batsman who managed to make an impression against Chennai, scoring a 36-ball 47. Now, if he could do that on a consistent basis, Shahrukh along with Pooran could win Punjab quite a few games. However, the two teams have got some outstanding fast bowlers and the batsmen will have to be wary of the new ball. Mohammed Shami, Jhye Richardson, Arshdeep Singh and Riley Meredith looked threatening against Chennai but Punjab could bring in Ravi Bishnoi in place of Murugan Ashwin.
THREE OVERSEAS FAST BOWLERS, AGAIN?
"We are trying to pick teams based on what the conditions are every game. At the moment with Axar Patel not available for selection, our balance is out a little bit, so we tried to sort of mix and match things a little bit today" - Delhi head coach Ricky Ponting said after the loss against Rajasthan.
At the expense of Shimron Hetmyer, Delhi went with a troika of Woakes, Rabada and Tom Curran against Rajasthan but the ploy didn't quite work out as they ended up with a below-par score at the Wankhede Stadium. In their first game, they chased down a target of 189 against Chennai Super Kings with utmost ease and that might have pushed them to play an extra bowler in place of a frontline batsman. Delhi however lost four wickets inside seven overs and could only manage 147 in their 20 overs.
Woakes has been exceptional so far in this season, while Rabada looked a bit rusty. The South African leaked 15 runs in the penultimate over and was smoked for two sixes by Chris Morris, bringing the equation down to 12 off 6. Now, what about Tom Curran? The right-arm paceman from England was horrible in the last over and was also pretty mediocre against Chennai. Now that Nortje is back, Curran will have to sit out. It will now be interesting to see if the DC team management sticks with the three-overseas-seamers theory or do they drop Woakes - who has been their best bowler this season - to play a foreign batsman.
To be honest, Delhi would be wary of going light in the batting department. Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw put on an opening partnership of 138 against Chennai but the latter has the reputation of being inconsistent at this level. The two didn't fire against RR and neither did Ajinkya Rahane. The latter has scored just 121 runs at an average of 13.4 and a strike rate of 105.2 in his last 11 IPL encounters and with him and Shaw not firing on a consistent basis, it would put extra pressure on Pant and Marcus Stonis.
Meanwhile, the flamboyant batsman from Delhi, Lalit Yadav made his IPL debut against Rajasthan and scored 20 off 24 deliveries. The right-hander was phenomenal for his state in the last edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and is someone who enjoys batting in the second half of the innings. To his defence, Yadav walked into bat in the seventh over and had to play with an uncharacteristic approach. He has the potential of playing those match-winning cameos but for that to happen, the top-order will have to lay a solid platform.
CAN DELHI AFFORD TO DROP WOAKES?
With Axar still recovering from COVID-19, it would be extremely difficult to leave out Woakes. The bowling all-rounder from England currently bats at No. 7 and Delhi don't really have a like-for-like back-up for him. If they drop Woakes, Ashwin will have to bat at No. 7 as Delhi don't have an Indian all-rounder. To keep the balance intact, Delhi could keep Nortje on hold till Axar comes back and play an Indian seamer in place of Curran.
The last year's finalist could then play one of Shimron Hetmyer, Sam Billings or Steve Smith, and if that happens, Rahane might sit out. One of them could also come in place of Yadav but it would be ideal to give the youngster a couple of games to prove himself. The decision will mostly depend on whom Delhi leave out. If Rahane doesn't play, Smith will likely come in to play that role of an anchor.
"If he gets an opportunity with us - I think it will be in the top three somewhere - if he gets an opportunity, I'm sure he'll have a great year for us," Ponting had said prior to the tournament. But, if Yadav is dropped, one of Hetmyer or Billings will get a game.
Delhi - Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (c & wk), Marcus Stoinis, Lalit Yadav, Chris Woakes, R Ashwin, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Avesh Khan.
Punjab - KL Rahul (c & wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Deepak Hooda, Nicholas Pooran, Shahrukh Khan, Jhye Richardson, Murugan Ashwin/Ravi Bishnoi, Riley Meredith, Mohammed Shami, Arshdeep Singh.