RAIPUR:A few hours before their match against Delhi Daredevils here on Friday, two foreign players from Sunrisers Hyderabad walked into a mall for a bite. Surrounded by a posse of policemen, the two were mobbed by the crowd even though most of those present had no clue to their identity.
Given this level of fascination with cricketers, it is easy to imagine the kind of frenzy Virat Kohli or A.B. de Villiers inspired among the public when they landed in the city for their and the league stage’s final match to be played against Delhi Daredevils on Sunday.
For a city starved of big-ticket international cricket, the occasional IPL games are a time to celebrate. And with Daredevils performing better than any time in the last few seasons, the hosts have given supporters reason to cheer.
Perhaps the first time ever, six of the eight teams are still in with a chance to make the play-offs. Sunday’s game between the two sides, in that sense, may well be a knockout game for both teams that are tied on points (14) but with RCB ahead on net run-rate.
That NRR is thanks mainly to the run machine that RCB has become in the last few games, powered by the superhuman heroics of Kohli and, to an extent, de Villiers.
The RCB captain has been demolishing teams, reputations and spirits with a panache that only makes him more dangerous. The team has won four of its last five games to jump from strugglers in the bottom half and join the lead pack.
The chink in RCB’s armour has been the ordinary form of its players barring Kohli, de Villiers and Shane Watson. Daredevils would be predictably wary of the RCB batting, but would also be hoping that the batters come good the way they did in the previous game between them that they won by seven wickets.
That was the team’s best batting performance in the competition so far with Quinton de Kock getting a century and Karun Nair his first of seven fifties.
Karun is one of only three players — Amit Mishra and Sanju Samson being the other two — to have played all of Daredevils’s 13 matches, which becomes important in the context of the 33 changes made to its playing XI under its mercurial selection policy.
It is the bowling that would be of concern for both sides and Daredevils would want to improve on their performance from the previous game where the bowlers could not stem the run flow despite regular wickets.
Going by the way Kohli & Co. has been doing recently, it would be a tall order for the host. But if anyone can do it, Daredevils can.