In what is likely to be a battle among the local boys, Rishabh Pant and Shikhar Dhawan will stand in the way of Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday in what is yet another must-win Indian Premier League match for the franchise from the south.

Dhawan’s resurgence as a dasher at the top and Pant’s unconventional ways have fuelled Delhi Capitals’ charge towards the playoffs, and in a crucial encounter for both sides, the duo would not want Kohli to enjoy a favourable homecoming.

For RCB, the last few matches have seen a tremendous turnaround [four wins in five matches] but the equation does not change much — keep winning their matches and hope results go favourably elsewhere.

Kohli’s side, however, have been dealt a couple of blows. Moeen Ali, who had been striking the ball superbly and chipping in with his off-spin, has left the tournament to join with the England national team, while Dale Steyn’s season turned out to be ultra short — an inflammation in his shoulder has seen the pacer return home.

RCB will enter the Feroz Shah Kotla, a very familiar place for their captain Kohli, on the back of a three-match winning run. But the visitors will still have to play out of their skins to stop Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly’s rampaging outfit.

A win will ensure that Delhi, who are currently in the third spot behind Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians, reach the cut-off limit of 16 points needed for a playoff berth.

Delhi’s performance at home has been a cause for concern but having registered a win after two consecutive losses, the Shreyas Iyer-led outfit will be high on confidence.

Regrouped RCB

RCB will not be short on confidence either, the side seems to have regrouped successfully and found their groove. They won their last three games defeating Kolkata Knight Riders, table-toppers CSK and Kings XI Punjab. The wins had [albeit briefly] lifted the Bengaluru based outfit from the bottom of the table to the penultimate spot. As things stand, they have 8 points from 11 matches.

“The only focus was to play well as a team. Losing six in a row really hurt us. Literally no one in the team has been part of such a streak. So we just refreshed, thought about just enjoying ourselves and the important thing now is not to take on any pressure,” Kohli had said after his team beat KXIP.

Delhi Capitals, for their part, boast a solid batting line up with a perfect blend of experience and youth that has seen inch close to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

In their last match chasing 192 against Rajasthan Royals, openers Prithvi Shaw and Dhawan laid the foundation with a 72-run stand which was followed by a blistering unbeaten 73-run knock by young Pant, who proved a point after being left out of India’s World Cup bound squad in favour of Dinesh Karthik.

With Dhawan and Shaw at the top and the likes of Iyer, Pant and Colin Ingram to follow, Delhi would start as a confident batting unit.

In the bowling department, Delhi rely heavily on Kagiso Rabada although they have variety in medium pacer Ishant Sharma, seamer Chris Morris and spinners Sandeep Lamichhane, Amit Mishra and Axar Patel.

For RCB, AB de Villiers’ bating form is a big bonus and the now-retired South African star has been in fine form, playing yet another match-winning knock in his team’s last win against KXIP. Parthiv Patel has also been impressed as an opener, repeatedly playing cameos, and even the odd match-winning knock. His resurgence is down to an attacking approach in the powerplay — a strike-rate of 143.45 in the first six overs is impressive by all accounts.

However, their bowling remains a worry. Despite defending totals in their last couple of matches, the bowling attack does not inspire confidence as a unit although another Delhi player Navdeep Saini has been a terrific find.

The side will draw inspiration from Saini’s match-winning penultimate over effort against KXIP. The fast bowler had taken the crucial wickets of Nicholas Pooran and David Miller giving away only three runs to hand his side the win.

Head to head in IPL:

Overall: Matches – 22, Delhi Capitals – 7, Royal Challengers Bangalore – 14, No Result – 1.

In Delhi since 2011: Matches – 6, Delhi Capitals – 0, Royal Challengers Bangalore – 6.


Delhi Capitals: Shreyas Iyer [c], Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Rishabh Pant, Colin Ingram, Keemo Paul, Axar Patel, Rahul Tewatia, Amit Mishra, Kagiso Rabada, Ishant Sharma, Hanuma Vihari, Ankush Bains, Chris Morris, Sherfane Rutherford, Jalaj Saxena, Sandeep Lamichhane, Trent Boult, Avesh Khan, Nathu Singh, Bandaru Ayyappa, Colin Munro, Manjot Kalra.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Virat Kohli [c], Parthiv Patel, AB de Villiers, Colin de Grandhomme, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Shimron Hetmyer, Dale Steyn, Shivam Dube, Mohammed Siraj, Navdeep Saini, Devdutt Padikkal, Himmat Singh, Milind Kumar, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Heinrich Klaasen, Pawan Negi, Washington Sundar, Akshdeep Nath, Prayas Ray Barman, Kulwant Khejroliya, Tim Southee.

Match starts at 4 pm IST.

[With PTI and inputs]