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A fascinating contest in the offing

Rakesh Rao

Decisive factor could well be how Deccan Chargers bowlers operate

— Photo: S. Subramanium

Deccan Chargers captain Kumar Sangakkara, who is yet to find the right combination, will be hoping to find space for Cameron White in the game against Delhi Daredevils.

NEW DELHI: After experiencing the high of India's World Cup triumph, the country's cricket crazy fans were expected to take time to warm up for the Indian Premier League.

If the IPL managed to ignite the interest of the followers sooner than expected, it has a lot to do with one peculiar trend that emerges from the results so far.

The defeat of a pre-match favourite in T20 is not at all surprising.

But what catches the eye is the uniform manner in which the underdogs have inflicted defeats on previously unbeaten teams by chasing down targets in excess of 180. Indeed, the script could not have been better.

After two losses, Kochi Tuskers Kerala brought down the mighty Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab shook off an embarrassing defeat in its opener to stun defending champion Chennai Super Kings.

Delhi Daredevils, following two defeats, is the latest to join the ‘club' in opening its account at the expense of then leader Pune Warriors.

These results ensured there were no unbeaten teams in the fray and that no team was without a win. Remember, so far, less than a third of league matches have been played.

Perhaps, this unpredictability was needed to bring the cricket watchers back to the stadium in good numbers. Armed with just one big victory, even those placed among the bottom-four in the league table have ensured that their ‘fans' pack the stadium during the home games.

Two such teams, Delhi Daredevils and Deccan Chargers, face off at the Ferozeshah Kotla here.

Deccan Chargers, the 2009 champion, has lost three games, including the first two, but recorded a jinx-breaking triumph at its home ground by stopping Royal Challengers Bangalore after setting up a target.

Daredevils, pounded by Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals, is understandably upbeat following its praiseworthy run-chase over the Yuvraj Singh-led Warriors.

Arguably, Daredevils relies far too heavily on skipper Virender Sehwag and left-handed David Warner, the two survivors from the team that lost to Chargers here precisely a year ago.

Upfront, the pair is most destructive in the competition but also, always, offers the opposition the hope of a breakthrough.

Venugopala Rao is looking increasingly confident, unlike the rest in the middle order. James Hopes, the man who gave the finishing touches after being drafted in at the last minute, is a handy all-rounder. But the bowling resources make Daredevils a vulnerable team.

Deccan Chargers must be licking its fingers in anticipation of facing the new-ball attack in the hands of an inconsistent Ashok Dinda and an off-form Irfan Pathan, the all-rounder bought for a whopping $1.9 million! Morne Morkel, who missed the last game due to injury, is without doubt a better option.

Some among the untested bowlers like Avishkar Salvi, Ajit Agarkar, Rajesh Pawar, Yogesh Nagar and Vikas Mishra, among others, may have to be summoned at some point because the current attack is, perhaps, the weakest in the competition.

The talent-hunters from Daredevils, including its manager Aashish Kapoor, could well be left red-faced should the bowlers continue to concede more runs than their strong batting line-up is capable of scoring.

The Chargers line-up, including skipper Kumar Sangakkara, the talented Jean-Paul Duminy, Delhi lad Shikhar Dhawan, in-form Bharat Chipli and Ravi Teja, can combine to exploit the home team's weakness.

The attack, including speedster Dale Steyn, Delhi boy Ishant Sharma and former Daredevils leg-spinner Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha and an unpredictable medium-pacer Manpreet Gony, gives Chargers a more balanced look.

However, both teams lack the look of assurance. Though these are still early days in the competition, it is also time to score over the unsettled formations before they find their feet. By the look of it, the decisive factor could well be how Chargers bowls to Daredevils. Yet, no clear favourite here.

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