These are still early days in the competition, but the primary concern for Delhi Capitals in the run-up to their home game against the Kolkata Knight Riders is to find a bowling combination that suits the sluggish Feroz Shah Kotla track. Thin on spin, Delhi Capitals’ strength is its pace department that has Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult, Ishant Sharma, Chris Morris and the young Avesh Khan. And that’s the reason Delhi is finding it tough to pick the right horses for their two-paced home course.
In the last game against Chennai Super Kings, Delhi opted for Rabada, Ishant and benched Boult to include leggie Amit Mishra. The spin attack that included left-arm spinner Axar Patel along with leggies Rahul Tewatia and Mishra tried their best to stifle the flow of runs but failed. They didn’t have the X-factor of a Rashid Khan or a Yuzvendra Chahal — bowlers with the reputation to change the course of a match with a sensational spell. Mishra prised out the scalps of Shane Watson and Suresh Raina, but not after he was taken to the cleaners. Man-to-man, the Super Kings’ spinners — Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja and Imran Tahir — exerted greater control and utilised the conditions better than the home team.
IPL season 12 has seen the pitches attracting a lot of attention. Chris Morris, who is poised to play the first game of the season on Saturday, was also surprised at the nature of the Kotla track. “The biggest difference is that it’s much slower and the ball is stopping here a lot more. I have played for four seasons over here, and in the past, the wicket used to be much quicker,” he quipped.
Perhaps, it was on the basis of the past seasons that the franchise had packed their squad with a bevy of fast bowlers. What they didn’t take into account was that this pitch has dramatically changed character over the course of this domestic season. “There has been non-stop cricket played at this venue since the Vijay Hazare Trophy in September last year. So, it’s not surprising to see the Kotla pitch getting worn out,” a DDCA official said.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ batsman Robin Uthappa also waded on the issue of the pitch on the match- eve. The 33-year-old reckoned that more than the slow wickets, it was rank turners like the one at Chepauk that does not serve the purpose of IPL. “Such wickets are not conducive for good viewership. IPL and T20 cricket is made for entertainment. As such, you want a balanced contest. Slow wickets are fine, but not turners like Chepauk. It really doesn’t serve the purpose,” he said.
Following the no-show from their spinners, Ricky Ponting’s team would be tempted to blood in Sandeep Lamichhane on Saturday. The young leg-spinner is high on confidence after a slew of impressive performances for the Lahore Qalandars at the PSL and the Melbourne Stars at the Big Bash earlier this year. He was equally impressive last year, picking five scalps from three games.
Ponting praised the Nepali teenager and hinted that he remained integral to the team this year. “I’m really impressed by what I’ve seen of him. He is in good form and high on confidence. He remains vital to the team’s cause in this season.” Ponting quipped. Lamichhane could just prove to be that X-factor that Delhi has been yearning for.