Mitchell Marsh’s brute power with the willow will be Delhi Capitals’ lethal weapon as they brace up for life without Rishabh Pant while starting their Indian Premier League campaign against Lucknow Super Giants, on Saturday.
LSG, who will be playing at home for the first time, is an equally beleaguered outfit if not more, with skipper KL Rahul going through the toughest phase of his career and has been on a downward spiral for quite some time now.
By the look of it, neither DC nor LSG look like outfits that give you the vibe of a champion side like Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians or for that matter Gujarat Titans.
However in the shortest format, equations could change at the drop of hat as the margin that separates a master-stroke from a harakiri is as thin as a thread.
So when DC begins their journey on Saturday evening at the Ekana Stadium, it will be an Australian, who will hold the key to the kind of start that the franchise expects.
And that Australian isn’t stocky New South Wales man David Warner, who is leading the side but the giant from Western Australia, who has provided some sort of a trailer during the ODI series against India with 12 sixes in three games — 11 of which came in the first two encounters.
It seems that Marsh has got a hang of Indian tracks and that can only augur well for DC.
Marsh, who hasn’t bowled his medium pacers for some time, will be a vital cog in Powerplay overs if Warner and his flamboyant opening partner Prithvi Shaw, fails to get going.
DC head coach Ricky Ponting expects a lot from Shaw and on his day, he can butcher any attack. Shaw also likes to work with pace of deliveries and Mark Wood in the opposition ranks, with a speed in excess of 150 clicks, gives him that opportunity.
Warner has been a different beast in IPL and one of the league’s most influential players but his blazing blade is missing for sometime and he is also coming back post elbow injury.
He hasn’t exactly looked in great rhythm but once the match starts, he could make everyone look and feel like a fool.
But with the sizzling Pant nursing a leg injury after a horrifying car accident, the DC middle-order save Rovman Powell, doesn’t inspire the highest confidence.
Axar Patel’s batting has gone to a different level in red ball cricket but there are no guarantees that the form will be replicated in shortest format too.
Yash Dhull still doesn’t look ready for top-flight cricket and Sarfaraz Khan could be under immense pressure after being entrusted with the big gloves.
On top of that, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Mustafizur Rahaman’s absence from the first game due to national duty makes the bowling attack thin.
Ishant Sharma has looked completely out of rhythm while Khaleel Ahmed and Chetan Sakariya aren’t exactly pacers with intimidating qualities and lack ability to win games of cricket singlehandedly. Mukesh Kumar, who is set for debut, is still untested at this level.
The eight overs between spinners Axar and Kuldeep Yadav will be very crucial for DC in context of most games.
But the bigger point is whether Rahul, in his current form and mental frame of mind, be able to seize the night against a weak bowling attack? How much will Kyle Mayers be able to compensate for Quinton de Kock, who is also not unavailable due to national commitments.
These are questions that begs answers. In terms of ‘Impact Player’, Lucknow does have more variety at their disposal with someone like Amit Mishra, who could be used against a Marsh or Powell. The rotund Mishra still has enough skills to stop batters on their tracks.
For DC, Ponting is probably mulling at using Mumbai’s Aman Khan as an ‘Impact Player’, having seen him at the nets.
But how LSG’s tournament pans out will depend on how the Indian trio of Krunal Pandya, Ayush Badoni and Deepak Hooda perform as Rs 16 crore investment Nicholas Pooran is known to blow hot and cold on numerous occasions.
For KL Rahul, it will no just be about volume of runs scored but also about the kind of intent he is showing along with the consistency in strike-rate, where it is not just about making up for lost deliveries towards business end of the innings.
Delhi Capitals: David Warner (c), Prithvi Shaw, Mitchell Marsh, Manish Pandey, Rovman Powell, Rilee Rossouw, Sarfaraz Khan (wk), Phil Salt (wk), Abhishek Porel (wk), Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Lalit Yadav, Ripal Patel, Ishant Sharma, Chetan Sakariya, Khaleel Ahmed, Aman Hakim Khan, Praveen Dubey, Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Yash Dhull, Mukesh Kumar, Vicky Ostwal.
Lucknow Super Giants: KL Rahul (c and wk), Kyle Mayers, Deepak Hooda, Krunal Pandya, Amit Mishra, Nicholas Pooran (wk), Naveen ul Haq, Ayush Badoni, Avesh Khan, Karan Sharma, Yudhvir Charak, Yash Thakur, Romario Shepherd, Mark Wood, Swapnil Singh, Manan Vohra, Daniel Sams, Prerak Mankad, Krishnappa Gowtham, Jaydev Unadkat, Marcus Stoinis, Ravi Bishnoi, Mayank Yadav.
Match Starts 7:30 pm. IST.