Delhi Daredevils lost their opening tie against Kolkata Knight Riders by six wickets © AFP

By Arun Nayal

New Delhi: Apr 5, 2013

After a disappointing loss in the season-opener in the Indian Premier League, the Delhi Daredevils would be hoping for a better batting performance when they take on perennial underdogs, Rajasthan Royals, in the fourth match of the IPL, in Delhi on Saturday.

A brittle middle-order, coupled with the absence of impact players Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder due to injuries, has become a cause for concern for the Mahela Jayawardene-led side.

The hosts would be keeping their fingers crossed for the return of dashing Indian opener Virender Sehwag, who missed the last match due back spasms, to reinforce their batting line-up.

Dubbed as a top-heavy side, Delhi’s middle-order failed to capitalise on a brisk start provided by Jayawardene and explosive Aussie batsman David Warner on a slow Eden Gardens’ track against Kolkata Knight Riders.

Delhi would be keen to make amends for the crushing six-wicket defeat on Wednesday.

The decision to try rookie batsman Manprit Juneja did not bear fruits for the Daredevils, as he looked uneasy in his brief stay at the wicket, and the side would be better served by the experience of Venugopal Rao in the middle order.

Despite the unavailability of last year’s Purple-Cap holder, Morne Morkel, for the second consecutive game, Delhi’s bowling attack looks settled unit.

It features a three-pronged pace attack comprising Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra and Umesh Yadav, besides left-arm tweaker Shahbaz Nadeem.

Morkel is currently playing for his domestic side in South Africa and will join the squad from their third match, against the Mumbai Indians on April 8.

Out of the 10 meetings in the brief IPL history, the Daredevils have had the upper-hand against their Jaipur-based rivals, with six wins and four losses.

On the other hand, Rajasthan Royals, who have looked awry since their inaugural edition feat, will look to kickstart their campaign on an positive note.

Except for the 2008 edition, in which the Royals emerged surprise winners under the maverick leadership of the legendary Shane Warne, the Shilpa-Shetty co-owned team has always finished in the bottom-half of the table.

For a side which has often found itself in a knockout situation in the latter part of the long and strenuous tournament, the Royals would be aiming to build initial momentum in their pursuit of finishing in the top four.

This sixth edition would be the last hurrah for former India captain Rahul Dravid and he would want to finish on a high as the skipper of a relatively inexperienced side.

The Royals would be bolstered by the presence of explosive Aussie all-rounder Shane Watson at the top of the order. The team, however, would miss his services in the first match as he is yet to join.

After his much-awaited Test debut ended tamely, young Indian batsmen, Ajinkya Rahane, would be raring to prove his mettle once again in a tournament that brought him to the limelight.

He would be hoping to replicate his sensational outing of the last season, in which he scored 560 runs including a remarkable century in 16 matches.

In the absence of Watson, Dravid is likely to partner Rahane in the opening slot and would be hoping to play the sheet-anchor role while expecting seasoned campaigners like Brad Hodge and Owais Shah to maintain a healthy run-rate throughout the innings.

Though, the Royals boast of a sturdy batch of foreign player, the lingering concern lies over the performances of domestic signings at critical junctures.

The team management would be expecting the likes of Ashok Menaria, Dishant Yagnik and Stuart Binny to stand out from the herd and be counted.

With the signing of accomplished West Indian speedster Fidel Edwards, the Royals seem to have found the alternative to a sporadic Shaun Tait.

A fit-again S Sreesanth will boost the Royals bowling attack in company of the wily Sidharth Trivedi.

Young Aussie all-rounder James Faulkner, who recently bagged a central contract with his national side, is likely to make his debut for the Royals in Watson’s absence.

The Royals have a raw spin attack consisting of last season’s astonishing hat-trick stealer Ajit Chandela, Mumbai’s Ankeet Chavan and promising under-19 spinner Harmeet Singh besides West Indian leg-spinner Sunil Badree who is making his IPL debut.