Delhi Daredevils have had a busy 24 hours. Even as Pune Warriors India winged their way back home after the loss on Sunday (April 28), Delhi have had a recovery session in the swimming pool of their hotel, a spot in the gym, dinner with Raman Singh, the chief minister of Chhattisgarh, and a gruelling practice under lights at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh Stadium in Raipur.
If the first game at India's newest venue was all about discovery, the second one, against Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday (May 1), is about using the little knowledge there is about the conditions to best effect. A second home for Delhi this season, Raipur was new to all, but having played a game there and spent some time on the ground, Delhi have a definite advantage.
While Kolkata have been masters at using the Eden Gardens as a fortress that visiting teams have struggled to breach, they are in for a taste of their own medicine. For starters, the pitch at Raipur is reasonably quick, with decent bounce and carry, while Kolkata prefer their Eden tracks slow and low. Kolkata's attack often has Jacques Kallis as the one true medium pacer, with even Lakshmipathi Balaji and Rajat Bhatia taking the pace off the ball more often than not. The spin of Sachithra Senanayake and Sunil Narine has been used in attacking mode, and although they might enjoy the extra bounce on offer in Raipur, they will certainly need to adapt quickly.
Delhi's tactics have been distinctly different, relying on the pace of Umesh Yadav, the experience of Ashish Nehra and the enthusiasm of Irfan Pathan, all returning from injury, to keep opposition batsmen from running away with the game. Nehra has been impressive in the death, and Yadav, who is quite close to regaining full fitness, showed that he enjoyed the Raipur surface, bending his back each time he wanted extra pace.
If anything, the problem for Delhi has been the batting, which has struggled to put on the 160-plus scores that the bowlers need to do their thing. Mahela Jayawardene, the captain, hasn't quite failed, but he would be the first to admit he hasn't succeeded either. Virender Sehwag has never looked bad, but only once has he won a game off his own bat. David Warner has been the lone bright spot even as the local talent - Unmukt Chand, Kedar Jadhav and Manprit Juneja - have had to shoulder more of a burden than the management would have liked.
The win against Pune, however, has resulted in a significant change in the mood within the Delhi team. Where there was once edginess at results repeatedly going against them, and confusion over why the best laid plans never came to fruition, there is now a belief that games can be won. To look at a spot in the final four is a stretch at the moment, but at least the team can enter each game with a clear mind.
Kolkata, with 6 points from 9 matches, are only one spot ahead of Delhi, and are equally desperate to win. Gautam Gambhir, the Kolkata captain, has flatly refused to speak about individuals in his team, either in a positive or negative vein, insisting that this tournament is about collective performance. As a team, Kolkata have been inconsistent, and if they hope to turn things around in the Pepsi Indian Premier League season VI, the time to do so is now. Another loss, and their campaign might end up in similar shape as Pune.
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, Umesh Yadav, Bharat Chipli.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Gautam Gambhir (capt), Debabrata Das (wk), Iqbal Abdulla, L Balaji, Manvinder Bisla (wk), Shami Ahmed, Pradeep Sangwan, Rajat Bhatia, Sarabjit Singh Ladda, Yusuf Pathan, Brad Haddin, Brendon McCullum, Brett Lee, Eoin Morgan, Jacques Kallis, Ryan McLaren, Ryan ten Doeschate, Sachithra Senanayeke, Sunil Narine, Sumit Narwal, Paras Dogra.