Delhi Daredevils suffered a big jolt ahead of their Indian Premier League campaign as captain Kevin Pietersen was on Wednesday ruled out of their opening match on Thursday against Royal Challengers Bangalore here due to a finger injury. Pietersen, who was bought by Daredevils for USD 1.5 million (Rs 9 crore), had sustained an injury on his right hand little finger during fielding drills with Surrey at The Oval last month.
Vice-captain Dinesh Karthik (extreme right in picture) will lead the team on Thursday, Daredevils assistant coach Eric Simons said. "He (Pietersen) did not play in the practice match and he won't be considered for tomorrow's game. Dinesh Karthik will captain the side," Simons said.
"It is a setback for us because he is an important player in our set-up. It's a bit of a jolt for us, but what we did well during the auction was that we made sure we had covered all areas. I think we have got ample replacements about who we can consider during such situations and that was one of the strengths of the squad that we have put together," he said. (Also read: Srinivasan taking 'unilateral' decisions, 'rebel' BCCI members want emergency meeting)
Simons said Pietersen himself was disappointed on missing out since he has been looking forward to playing for a long time now. "It is tough for KP himself. He is someone who is very passionate. Even though he has not been able to take much part in practice sessions, he has been there for all of them. He is enthusiastic about his new role for Daredevils this year and it's disappointing for him as much as it's for us," he said.
Asked when would Pietersen be available and if he has been going through practice drills, Simons said, "We would take it one game at a time and see how he progresses each morning. He has been doing some work with bat -- some drills more than anything else, but nothing too strenuous with bat." (In pics: IPL 'bowled over' by Shah Rukh, Deepika)
This means that Pietersen's post-England career will have to be delayed. He was sacked in the wake of England's 0-5 Ashes whitewash in Australia last winter, which made him available for a full IPL season for the first time.
Pietersen had last week played down the problem with his little finger as a "niggle". He, however, missed DD's practice match against Hyderabad in Dubai on Monday. ('Little Masters' of IPL 2014)
Pietersen's absence will be felt, but Simons was of the view that he had a bigger role in Daredevils' set-up. "He has been with us over the last two IPL seasons and has been an amazing influence. He has been an inspiration for a lot of players in the team, and the confidence he passes on to others is infectious. Not just for the runs, but KP has played a major role for us and it has been exactly the same this time around," said Simons.
"The relationship that he has with the players has a very positive influence on the team from a cricketing perspective and the team culture."