The body language of the Delhi Daredevils in practice here on Monday told a story. From the moment they walked on to the perfectly manicured grass at the Rajasthan Cricket Association Academy, the shoulders drooped, the batsmen’s shots didn’t seem to have zing, and the intensity that is expected from a professional cricket team seemed to go missing.
Given that they are out of the running for the Indian Premier League play-offs, though, it was hardly a surprise. Virtually their entire season so far has been a series of batting failures, which has cost them dear.
From here on till the end of the tournament, there’s a chance for them to play for pride and also to audition for next year’s mega auction, where most players will return to the pool and be sold off to different franchises again.
Delhi’s spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed, though, said the team needed to play to its best ability for the respect of the game.
“We have to play proud cricket. We have to respect the game. It’s been disappointing, we haven’t played good enough cricket. We have to play for the Daredevils badge and let people know we are a good team, which unfortunately didn’t play good cricket this season,” he said at the pre-match press conference.
Up against them is a team that is still a strong contender for a play-off spot. Captain Rahul Dravid and coach Paddy Upton have galvanised the Rajasthan Royals’ youngsters and experienced campaigners into a never give-up unit, and especially at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium, they have looked unbeatable.
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How serious they are about the next five games is obvious from the fact that while there was no practice session scheduled on Monday, a lot of players — including skipper Dravid and Sunday’s Man of the Match Ajinkya Rahane — sweated it out in the nets in the evening.
With the 4pm start, the conditions for the game are expected to be typically hot and dry, and that may reduce the advantage the Royals’ fast bowlers get on this pitch, which offers good bounce and movement. But confidence is a key part of cricket, and that makes the Royals clear favourites.