Players of Delhi Capitals attend a training session.
Mohammad Abdullah, Senior Sports Reporter
A confident Delhi Capital can take a long leap towards realizing their dream of a maiden IPL title with a victory over a stuttering Chennai in the first qualifier in Dubai on Sunday.
The experience of three-time champion Chennai and the passion of Delhi, with a final berth at stakes, makes it an intriguing encounter. The winner of the first qualifier will directly book a berth in the final.
Delhi and Chennai capped their round robin campaigns effectively and are sitting at the first and second spot respectively in the points table. Delhi won four of their six matches after the IPL resumed in the UAE to maintain stranglehold on the top position.
The IPL was cancelled midway after an unprecedented surge in the coronavirus cases forced the country of one billion to go into a lockdown in April.
The money-spinning league was shifted to the UAE to complete the remaining matches. The shifting of the tournament to a new place witnessed a shift in the equilibrium.
Many foreign players of all the teams refused to come to the UAE because of being on the national duty or some personal reasons. Many of them wanted to keep themselves fit and fresh for the upcoming World Cup to be played in the UAE and Oman.
This shift of the equilibrium proved to be a boon for Delhi, who are fancying their chances of lifting the maiden IPL crown.
Delhi have been in stupendous form and have put up a fascinating show to outclass almost all their rivals in the tournament so far.
It is their bowling, which makes them a very dangerous customer. They have undisputedly the best bowling line-up, which features the likes of Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada and Avesh Khan in the pace department.
The pair of Rabada and Nortje is believed to be the most ferocious pace duo of the tournament and the presence of Khan makes the attack more fearsome. Delhi are likely to add more tooth to their attack with the return of the Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis to the squad for the playoffs.
Stoinis had injured himself in the first match of the UAE leg of the IPL and was ruled out of the remaining matches of the group stage. His return will give a selection headache to the team management.
Delhi may not want to disturb their winning combination in the knockout stage as all their bowlers are doing well. Their only concern can be Rabada, who has gone wicket-less in the last five games.
An out-of-colour Rabada can make way for the returning Stoinis if Delhi ring in a change or two. Ripal Patel is also likely to be dropped to accommodate Stoinis. Khan has made a big stride with a magnificent performance and is being billed as the finding of the season by captain Rishab Pant.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel have been discharging their duty well in the spin department. They can choke the runs with crafty spin and give important breakthroughs in the middle.
Opener Shikhar Dhawan is in mesmerizing form and has scored 500 plus with the help of three fifties so far in the tournament. Prithvi Shaw, whose scores were 11, 10, 6 and 18, seems to have returned to form with a fine 48 against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The presence of Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Shimron Hetmyer makes the middle-order very formidable while Ashwin and Stoinis, if he plays, can hit big shots down the order. Ashwin had shared a match-winning stand with Iyer against Mumbai in Sharjah. He tonked Krunal Pandya for a six in his 21-ball 20 in the last over to take Delhi over the line in style.
Meanwhile, Chennai will look to bounce back after three consecutive losses. The former champions, who seemed to have peaked too early in the tourney, have lost the momentum and are struggling to return to the winning ways when it matters the most.
Their biggest problem has been an inconsistent middle-order, which has completely failed to deliver in the last few games. Chennai rely heavily on the opening duo of Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis. Both Gaikwad and du Plessis are in spellbinding form and occupying second and third spots respectively in the list of highest scorers, having smashed over 500 runs each.
The only player, who has performed consistently despite being dropped every now and then is West Indian Dwayne Bravo. He is one of the most revered figure in the T20 cricket and only all-rounder, who has scored more than 10,000 runs and taken 500 wickets. Ravindra Jadeja has also chipped in with some useful contribution with both bat and ball from time to time.
Both Suresh Raina and Robin Uhtappa are in poor form and that can be a headache for Dhoni. Both are likely to be dropped and Sam Curran, who has been very expensive in his two matches, can be brought into the fold as an all-rounder.
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