Delhi Capitals coach Ricky Ponting believes that playing well in the second half of IPL will be a bigger challenge as the tracks in the UAE will get slower. Citing as an example their win against Rajasthan Royals last Wednesday, he said any score in the region of 160 could prove to be a good total.
Delhi Capitals are closing in on a play-off berth with 12 points from six games and another two wins from the next six matches will put them through to the final week of the tournament.
"One thing I have been telling the boys right from the start of this tournament is that I want us playing our best cricket in the back half of the tournament, not necessarily in the front half of the tournament," Ponting said.
He was speaking on the eve of his team's return-leg match against Chennai Super Kings.
The former Australian captain had predicted before the start that pitches would tend to get slower as the tournament progresses. He was right.
"The pitches have noticeably started to slow down a little bit -- I think even the RR game with them not managing to chase 160 on these grounds (proved that).
"I think what we all felt when we came here was that maybe for the first half of the tournament, chasing might have been easier because of the bit of dew and also because of the little bit of more grass on the wickets...
"...Because we thought they are going to preserve the wickets a little bit for the back half of the tournament, but chasing has been hard right from the start," he said.
Ponting admitted that batting first was relatively easier during the first month of the event.
"I think all the games we've won, we've actually won batting first. So I think that will continually get a bit tougher to bat on," Ponting said.
The Australian great also spoke about his team's chances of making it to the play-offs.
"Yes, things are looking good at this stage of the season, but I am never the one to try and look too far ahead because I know how quickly the IPL can turn around.
"We have seen teams in the past have six wins from their first six games, and then not go on to make the playoffs. So we'll keep a lid on things, and I still think we're six wins from eight games, but probably haven't played our best cricket yet either," he expressed.
For Ponting, the key to win close matches is to take them deep an be in the game as long as possible.
"One thing I have been telling the boys is - if you can just keep yourselves in the game, and keep fighting then we might be able to pull some wins out of games which we probably shouldn't win - against RR was one such game.
"I just love seeing the boys fight like that for every win because as we know, in the IPL, (it) is not easy to win games, so to pinch a game like that was a great result for the boys," added the 45-year-old.
He was ecstatic after Capitals beat Royals by 14 runs despite being down and out till the 15th over, after which the pacers brought them back in the game.
"I do tend to get a little bit emotional in the dugout. I think the main reason I get emotional is because I care so much about the results for this team.
"We put in a lot of hard work, and you know, all that planning and preparation come down to what the boys do on match day, so I do get pretty heavily involved - but last time (against RR) more so because we started the game really poorly lost a wicket off the first ball and Jinks (Ajinkya Rahane) got out soon after."
Commenting on the challenge that Chennai could throw at his side, Ponting said they won't be taking the three-time champions lightly.
"We have played every team once and Rajasthan twice now, and Chennai also the second time now. Look, you can't take anyone for granted in this tournament.
"They've been proven performers - they have probably been the best team in the IPL since day 1, so when you've got guys like Watson, Dhoni, Jadeja and Faf in the side, you can't take them lightly," said the head coach.