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Preview of the First IPL Semi Final – Delhi Daredevils Vs Rajasthan Royals

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Now the time has come for the action to really sizzle. It is the all or nothing stage. No more backups, no more coming back to fight another day. It’s time to go for the jugular, to kick and fight, to scrap and use all that you have to win. Am I looking forward to these matches or what!

The first teams to cross swords in the semi final of this amazing competition are the Rajasthan Royals and the Delhi Daredevils, two of my favorite teams in the championship. I thought Delhi would get into the semis a lot easier than they did primarily because it is a very well-balanced team with established professionals, fine batsmen and bowlers and a mercurial captain in Sehwag. If they struggled I think it was due to the fact that they took the pedal off the gas for a while (Sehwag to blame), losing matches they could have won, seeming like they had no plan etc. But the sheer brilliance of Delhi Daredevils makes any opposition really wary of it because Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhawan and co can just take the game away from you before you realize it. In such a situation no captain of the opposition can, even for a moment, afford to be dazzled and let even one move go reactively. He has to be proactive and on the ball and that is where Warne is good.

One thing is for sure. Delhi will continue to play their natural game, a style that Sehwag always endorses. To me, how well Warne plans his strategy against Sehwag and Gambhir will be the key. Warne will look to restrict Delhi to a score between 160 and 170 if Delhi bats first. I suspect that he will bring on the slow bowlers a tad earlier than normal just to slow things down, and use Watson later in the innings. Warne’s tactics against the top order will be interesting because he will come with a plan A, B and C and more, and may need all those. If he does pick up early wickets and the score is restricted to 170, then Rajasthan is in with a very good chance. Smith, Asnodkar are combining very well and Smith will be looking to carry on from where he left. Yusuf Pathan, Watson and others have already shown that 8 an over is pretty comfortable for them and maybe a bit more.

Looking on from Delhi’s viewpoint, they’d be better of targeting 175 to begin with and take whatever else as a bonus. That way they will end up with a few more, maybe 190. I’d play out Sohail Tanvir, attack only the loose balls, specially if I were Sehwag and Gambhir. Winning a personal battle with him is not as important as winning the game. The other bowlers are not as penetrative and they can take their chances against them. Delhi would look to get Smith out early and hope that McGrath does some damage up there. Young Asnodkar plays his game freely and always offers a chance while Smith can stay put and take the game away with his vast experience. Similarly Watson would be one batsmen Delhi would want to see the back off soon – some serious planning could really help because Watson has his weak spots.

Judicious use of bowling resources is the key for Sehwag and he must leave no loose details on the field. Because one can be pretty sure that Warne will not. To me that is the difference – whichever captain loses focus even for a short period gives away the edge.

If I have to pick a favorite which is so difficult in this format of the game, my vote would still go to Rajasthan Royals (though it scares me to think of a one sided final). But on current form and my faith in Warne’s leadership instincts, Rajasthan for me.

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