IPL 2021: Tricky tests coming up for Delhi Capitals in playoff quest

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: After their win against Rajasthan Royals last week, it seemed like a mere formality for Delhi Capitals to make the play-offs with a chance at a top two finish looking highly likely. But after a disappointing loss against the Kolkata Knight Riders in their previous fixture, the scenario has suddenly become more complex.​After their four-match winning streak was snapped, Ricky Ponting’s side, currently second in the table, now need a win to guarantee progress and two to make the top two. However, their last three games are all against tricky opposition.

First up, finalists of the last edition, both Delhi and Mumbai Indians clash on Saturday at Sharjah. Last season, Delhi lost all four of their encounters against Mumbai. And historically, Mumbai have always performed when their backs are up against the wall. Lying fifth at the moment, with only net run rate separating them from fourth, Mumbai’s last two games are against bottom dwellers Rajasthan and Sunrisers Hyderabad. Rohit Sharma will be aware of the fact that a win in Saturday’s early match will put them in an advantageous position so they will be up for the contest.

The remaining two fixtures for Delhi include teams in the top three. Post Mumbai, table toppers Chennai Super Kings will be their opponents followed by third placed Royal Challengers Bangalore. And the team management will not have forgotten how an almost easy situation was turned upside down last season as the team went on to lose four of their last five league games and a final league match victory ensured progress.

“We have not qualified yet. Funny things happen in the IPL and we are very much aware of it. We have to keep getting better as there is always room for improvement. We are sitting at the second spot on the table, but we have to keep working hard. We have to play our best team in every match,” said Mohammad Kaif, the assistant coach of Delhi Capitals during a virtual interaction on Friday.

The job will be made tougher due to injuries suffered by explosive finisher Marcus Stoinis and opening batter Prithvi Shaw. Stoinis’ absence was keenly felt like match as the middle-order crumbled like a house of cards, contributing only 13 runs. In Shaw’s absence, Steve Smith was used as an opener and though he was the joint highest run-getter, his low strike-rate and his inability to clear the boundary have been pretty evident this season.

“We have missed out on Shaw, Stoinis and got a big gap to fill. They have been very important members of the Delhi Capitals team. Injuries are not helping us right now. They both are getting better. In fact, Shaw had a hit in the nets yesterday. Stoinis has started to run a bit. We will be taking a call tomorrow before the game on how Shaw feels. But Stoinis still got probably few matches to go from here on I guess,” Kaif added.

The slow Sharjah surface will be another added factor. Delhi struggled to get going and this season, most teams have found it difficult to score on this track. Extra onus will be on the batters to perform. “The pitch in Sharjah has been a bit more on the slower side this year. However, the players must take up the challenge of batting on difficult pitches, where it’s tough to score runs. The team which accepts the challenge of scoring runs on a difficult pitch will win,” Kaif summed it up.