What will the Kotla pitch do this time?
Monday, May 2, Delhi
Start time 2000 (1430 GMT)
If this was a home-and-away tie of the likes one sees in the UEFA Champions League, Delhi Daredevils could relax in the knowledge that they have done the hard work in winning the away leg against Kochi Tuskers Kerala. However, unlike teams like Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings who have maximised home advantage, these two have been subject to mercurial tracks at their grounds, and have resultantly won only once each at home. There have expectedly been no staunch defences of their groundstaffs from Virender Sehwag and Mahela Jayawardene.
Jayawardene, in fact, must be glad to get away from Kochi, after having seen his side bowled out twice at the Nehru Stadium - once on a track that must have reminded Ishant Sharma of Perth, and once on a track where Parthiv Patel saw a length ball hit less than halfway up off stump.
Sehwag has made it absolutely clear what kind of a pitch he wants: hard and good to bat on. The curator at Feroz Shah Kotla tried to give him that. For the match against Kings XI Punjab, the pitch had more grass than most Indian football grounds do; and Delhi duly scored 231. Since then, however, the inborn slowness of the track has surfaced, and during Delhi's last home game, Kolkata Knight Riders spinner Iqbal Abdulla was turning the ball square.
What the Kotla will offer on Monday is anyone's guess. But with both teams desperate for points to keep them alive in the tournament, they would settle for a fair track that gives the sides batting first and second an equal chance.
Form guide (most recent first)
Delhi: WLLWL (seventh in points table)
Kochi: LLLWW (ninth in points table)
Kochi's biggest worry will be that they have been bowled out in all their previous three games. They may decide to give opener Tanmay Srivastava a go, bring back VVS Laxman or even punt on Owais Shah. But the onus eventually lies on Brendon McCullum and Jayawardene himself to repeat the kind of performance they put in against Mumbai. Kochi went in with an all-Indian bowling attack last time around, and will probably look at the pitch before deciding whether to bring in either Muttiah Muralitharan or Thisara Perera.
The fourth international player's slot has been an absolute non-performer for Delhi. Aaron Finch, Mathew Wade and Travis Birt have together scored 86 runs from nine innings. Yet, strangely, Colin Ingram and Andrew McDonald have not got a game yet, not even when James Hopes was injured for the last match. Delhi have chopped and changed their bowling attack but may stick with the one that kept Kochi to 119 in the last game.
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In the spotlight
Sehwag may have been critical of the low pitch in Kochi, but something about its unpredictable nature seemed to increase his determination, and he went on to play one of the best IPL innings. It is no coincidence that he has played big hands in two of his team's three wins, and he will need to at least give Delhi a decent start if they are to prevail again.
Brendon McCullum will always be remembered as the man who scored 158 not out in the inaugural match of the first IPL. But since then, he has disappointed, with only four half-centuries in his next 28 IPL games. He started this season promisingly, but has tailed away since, and his shot selection has been bizarre at times. Given that he is a senior member of the Kochi side, he needs to show more responsibility.
- Virender Sehwag has the highest strike-rate (167.06) in IPLs among players who have scored more than 500 runs over the four editions. The next highest is Yusuf Pathan's 160.08.
- After having taken one and three scalps respectively on Sunday, Shane Warne and Pragyan Ojha have both come to within one wicket of Kochi's RP Singh's record of 56 wickets in IPLs.
"The Kotla wicket is better than the Kochi one. The ball at least bounces up to knee height. In Twenty20 you need a track which is good to bat on where a team can score around 180, because that's what the crowd comes to see."
Virender Sehwag makes his views on slow and low tracks known
Dustin Silgardo is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo