Admitting that losing captain Virender Sehwag is a big blow for the struggling Delhi Daredevils, coach Greg Shipperd said they face an uphill task as they take on a formidable Chennai Super Kings in an Indian Premier League match on Thursday.
While Delhi struggled for a major part of the tournament, whatever little they achieved was due to Sehwag's brilliance, and the big-hitting opener's absence would surely be felt.
"Viru's absence will be a huge loss for us as he is the holder of Orange cap. He fired in each of the matches that we won. He would be missed both as a captain and a key player," said Shipperd in a pre-match media conference on Wednesday.
"It is going to be a very tough assignment for us to beat the Super Kings in their home ground. We know that they have got special skills in all three departments of the game. It would be tough for us to raise our game and play best cricket against a side, which is in great form at the moment. They will surely pose a big threat to us," he added.
The former Aussie player, however, said that James Hopes, who has been appointed captain after Sehwag suffered a shoulder injury for which he is set to undergo surgery in London, was an experienced campaigner.
"James Hopes is the new captain and he is an experienced campaigner. Behind the scenes we do not have a captain but we have a range of people who have been given leadership opportunities in making sure that we move as a squad. Hopes has got lot of experience. His determination and abilities could help us finish the tournament as well as we can."
He also said that the team still have plenty of options to choose from. "We have plenty of options. Next three games are very important for us. And we will have to figure out which players can handle the pressure well and accordingly be included in the side," said Shipperd.
Insisting that first six overs in a match would be crucial, irrespective of whether the Daredevils bat or ball, Shipperd said it was important to lay a strong foundation.
"We must be able to lay a strong foundation whether it be with the bat or ball in the first six overs. This is an area where we have been lagging, particularly with the bat. We had difficulties with the bat against Mumbai Indians the other day but the team could still manage to register nearly 150 runs. "We have been a quite reactive team but we need to be proactive in the next three games," he said.
Asked whether the Delhi outfit would opt to bat or bowl if they win the toss here at the Chidambaram Stadium on Thursday, Shipperd said, "I have to be careful in answering that question whether we bat first. However, we do take notice of the statistics that they lost four matches batting second. We had mixed success in batting first or second."
"We will assess the wicket and check with the players who are familiar with the conditions here, before taking a decision in case we win the toss tomorrow."
Due to indifferent form of the players, the Daredevils are languishing at seventh place in the points table with just four wins and seven losses from 11 games.
"They have been quite reactive as a group instead of leading from the front and taking the opportunities. A number of players have been given chances but they could not grab their chances well. Warner started the tournament very well but drifted off in the last five outings."
Once again defending the out-of-form Irfan Pathan, Shipperd said that he would be given some more opportunities. "Irfan Pathan is a solid player and he will be given some more opportunities in the next three games. He is prepared very well and perhaps require some more chances to excel," he said.
As far as bowling department is concerned, the coach said he was happy with his bowlers as a unit.
"Our bowling group has held us together and given us opportunities to win matches. We are satisfied with our bowling group."
"Spinners have taken wickets for us. RE van der Merwe, Shahbaz Nadeem have done quite well and Venugopal Rao has not been used on a regular basis but he is a good option to bowl off-spin. Ajit Agarkar has also done a fair job. But we know that there is a huge challenge ahead of us," said Shipperd.