One year is a long time in sport and Delhi Daredevils will be the first to vouch for that. A win has remained elusive in six consecutive matches for a side that won 11 of its 16 Indian Premier League matches last year to enter the qualifiers as table toppers. What further adds to Delhi's trouble is their inconsistency hasn't just revolved around one department,and that is the deadlock they would look to break when they take on Mumbai Indians at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Sunday (April 21). Both sides incidentally, are coming off a demoralising loss to Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals respectively.
Last year, the clash was billed as the battle of the heavyweights, but not even the perpetual rivalry between the fans of Delhi and Mumbai can infuse the match with the same competitiveness this time around. When they've got going, Delhi have looked a side that can beat any opponent, but they're playing poor cricket, and a turnaround looks increasingly unlikely notwithstanding the presence of players like Mahela Jayawardene, Virender Sehwag, David Warner and Morne Morkel in the side.
Another loss will all but finish Delhi's chances, however slim they may be, of making the playoffs, a thought that doesn't seem to have affected the enthusiasm around the group.
Although the team has constantly denied Kevin Pietersen's absence for being the reason for their poor run, it can't be denied that the England batsman's consistency last year had helped set up tall totals for the bowlers to defend. Pietersen's performance hasn't been replicated so far by anyone, something which the seniors will be expected to do, before it becomes too late.
Meanwhile, Mumbai may be in a slightly more comfortable position in the points table with three wins in five matches, but they have not looked the dominant force they have been in the past. Although they have an abundance of riches when it comes to the foreign players, they haven't quite been able to define roles for certain players just yet, with Glenn Maxwell, who was bought for USD 1 million at the auction, yet to get a look-in.
The batting unit was stifled by the Rajasthan spinners and the problems begin right at the top. So far, the team management hasn't shown the willingness to tinker around too much with the batting order, but with Ponting throwing hints of a shuffle, a change is inevitable.
There hasn't been the same amount of focus on the bowling department though. Mitchell Johnson seems a completely different bowler when he gets the ball to swing prodigiously both ways, something he has done with great consistency this year. Lasith Malinga seems to have lost that X-factor that made him one of the toughest bowlers to get away. That apart, the spinners in Harbhajan Singh and Pragyan Ojha, and the medium pacers like Kieron Pollard and Rishi Dhawan, have stuck to their job.
Given Mumbai had the better of the exchange when the two sides met last, Delhi would be itching to pull one back. That will not just help them open their account in the tournament, but also shrug off a lot of mental cobwebs surrounding the camp.
Delhi Daredevils: Mahela Jayawardene (capt), David Warner, Morne Morkel, Johan Botha, Roelof van der Merwe, Andre Russell, Jeevan Mendis, Virender Sehwag, Naman Ojha (wk), Manprit Juneja, Varun Aaron, Ajit Agarkar, Gulam Bodi, Unmukt Chand, Royston Dias, CM Gautam (wk), Kedar Jadhav (wk), Siddarth Kaul, Shahbaz Nadeem, Yogesh Nagar, Sujit Nayak, Pawan Negi, Ashish Nehra, Irfan Pathan, Aristh Singhvi, Venugopal Rao, Umesh Yadav.
Mumbai Indians: Ricky Ponting (capt), Aiden Blizzard, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Franklin, Phillip Hughes, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Jacob Oram, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith, Abu Nechim Ahmed, Amitoze Singh, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rishi Dhawan, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Dhawal Kulkarni, Sushant Marathe, Pragyan Ojha, Akshar Patel, Munaf Patel, Ambati Rayudu, Jalaj Saxena, Rohit Sharma, Pawan Suyal, Aditya Tare (wk), Sachin Tendulkar, Suryakumar Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah.