Sharjah: The spectre of injury during the IPL has come back to haunt Kevin Pietersen again as the Delhi Daredevils captain will miss their highly billed opener against a star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore here on Thursday.
There was a slight scare when, during their practice sessions earlier this week, the former England star was seen with a bandage on the ring and little fingers of his right hand. And the worst fears of the Daredevils camp were confirmed when coach Eric Simons said: “He did not play the practice match yesterday [Tuesday] and is not being considered for this game.”
An injury sustained during fielding practice in England is what’s playing spoilsport and it looks unlikely that Pietersen, who missed the entire 2011 and 2013 seasons due to injury, will be fit in time for their second game — coming only two days later against Kolkata Knight Riders on Saturday.
Asked if it’s a psychological setback for his team ahead of their first game, that too against a heavyweight side, Simons put on a brave face: “There is no doubt he will be missed but, during the auctions, we made sure we got cover for everyone. I think that’s one of the strengths of this team this year.”
Their task will be cut out though against the big-spending Bangalore team, whose batting order looks like a who’s who of impact players in this format: Chris Gayle, AB De Villiers, Virat Kohli and, of course, Yuvraj Singh. Even if two of them get going, then the residents of the houses that border the relatively small Sharjah Cricket Stadium may have to watch out for broken glass panes.
The mental framework of both teams, on the basis of their performances last season, must be bordering on desperation. For RCB, it has been a case of so-near-yet-so-far far too many times, going down in the finals of 2010 and 2011, while they failed to make even the play-offs last year.
The Daredevils, on the other hand, overhauled their entire set-up following a nightmarish outing in IPL VI, when they finished just ahead of wooden spooners Sahara Pune Warriors.
While the history of the IPL has often shown that star power is no guarantee for success, the role of the top five batsmen in building the momentum of an innings in this format is undeniable. This is an area where RCB has the brownie points, with Gayle, Parthiv Patel, Kohli, Yuvraj and De Villiers likely to occupy those positions.
Contrary to the general belief that their bowling line-up looks thin compared to their batting firepower, they are strong in the pace department, with Albie Morkel, Mitchell Starc and Ashok Dinda. Shadab Jakati, the stingy left-arm spinner who moved from Chennai Super Kings, will lead the spin department, with Gayle and Yuvraj lending him support.
For Daredevils, Murali Vijay, a discarded Super King, is likely to open the batting with Quinton De Kock, while Ross Taylor looks the likely candidate to step into KP’s shoes. Dinesh Karthik, who will captain the side on Thursday, J.P. Duminy and Manoj Tiwary are the likely candidates to form the middle order.
The groundsmen in Sharjah are promising a batting strip as always, though it may hold a few surprises, with plenty of cricket being played here recently. Despite an evening start at 6.30pm, the dew factor should not be a cause of worry for the bowlers.
Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Delhi Daredevils
At Sharjah Cricket Stadium
Match starts at 6.30pm
Live telecast on OSN Sports HD Cricket