With a new coach, new captain and a whole new composition of the squad, Delhi Daredevils look the most fresh, and that's where their challenge lies. (Getty Images)
The Delhi Daredevils (DD) have had an up-and-down time in the Indian Premier League (IPL) so far. They have not managed to strike a consistent note, which is one of the primary reasons why they are yet to win the title in six seasons.
After a miserable 2013 season, DD decided not to retain any member of their IPL-6 squad, including veteran Virender Sehwag, and built their squad from scratch at the 2014 players' auction. They appointed England's Kevin Pietersen as the skipper of their new-look squad and hired Gary Kirsten as coach, giving the duo a responsibility to try and overturn the franchise's last-place finish in IPL 6 to at least a place in the top four this year.
The Daredevils will play their first match against the Royal Challengers Bangalore on April 17th, a day after the first phase of IPL 7 kicks off in the UAE.
Delhi's major strength will be their batting. Murali Vijay, who has performed admirably while his stint with Chennai Super Kings, will don the DD jersey this time. He will most likely open the batting with promising South African wicketkeeper batsman Quinton de Kock.
Delhi splurged a whopping Rs. 12.5 crore on Dinesh Karthik who will hold the middle order together along with England discard Pietersen, who was bought for Rs. 9 crore, and the in-form Kiwi batsman Ross Taylor who pocketed Rs. 2 crore. Also in the mix will be JP Duminy; domestic stars Manoj Tiwary, Saurabh Tiwary and Kedar Jadhav; and the promising New Zealand allrounder Jimmy Neesham, who many termed as the snatch of the 2014 auction at Rs. 1 crore.
Rahul Sharma and Shahbaz Nadeem are the only names the eyes stop at while spotting specialist spinners in the Delhi squad, though Duminy has bowled handy part-time spin for South Africa in limited-overs cricket. Those limited options may leave skipper Pietersen rue not having another quality spinner in his ranks.
Kevin Pietersen: The discarded England veteran will be one of the trump cards for the team. Pietersen, the leading run-scorer for England in all three formats of the game, was scrapped by the ECB after the Ashes humiliation last winter. That leaves him free from any international duty and available to the Daredevils for the entire duration of the league.
Dinesh Karthik: Another player to look out for in the DD dugout is wicketkeeper batsman Karthik, and the Tamil Nadu stumper knows only too well that the franchise has pinned a lot of hopes on his ability to win matches. Karthik had a magnificent last season with the Mumbai Indians and has the ability to change the course of the game at any point of time. After having failed to make most of the opportunity in the Asia Cup, he will look to make amends with a good show in the IPL.
Ross Taylor: The attacking New Zealander's destructive abilities are not hiden from anybody. During his stay at Royal Challengers Bangalore, Taylor formed the core of their middle order, which is what Delhi will expect of him in his second stint as a Daredevil.
2008: An impressive show in the inaugural season saw Delhi reaching the semi-finals, but they couldn't put it across eventual champions Rajasthan Royals, who hammered DD by a whopping margin of 105 runs.
2009: It was a replay of the previous season for Delhi Daredevils. The team didn't face any trouble reaching the semi-finals, but once again couldn't cross the penultimate hurdle, losing to now-defuct and 2009 champions Deccan Chargers.
2010: Delhi's performance went downhill as the tournament progressed and eventually they failed to go past the group stage for the first time in three years.
2011: The fourth season was nothing less than a nightmare for Delhi Daredevils. They finished last in the standings. Of the 14 games, Delhi won just 4 and lost 9, while one ended as no-result.
2012: Delhi made a strong comeback in the fifth season but couldn't keep up their good show in the playoffs where they lost to Kolkata Knight Riders by 18 runs and to Chennai Super Kings by 86 runs.
2013: The embarrassment of 2011 returned to haunt Delhi in IPL 6, where they once again bagged the wooden spoon, winning just three of the 16 matches in the season.
Chances this year: Delhi have overhauled their machinary that will run under the astute guidance of former India coach Gary Kirsten, and getting a totally revamped side gel together in less than a week's time will be the challenge each member of the franchise will face. That and the performance of their big stars will perhaps decide how deep Delhi go into the tournament.
Squad: Mayank Agarwal, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Quinton de Kock, Jean-Paul Duminy, Kedar Jadhav, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Siddarth Kaul, Milind Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Shahbaz Nadeem, Jimmy Neesham, Wayne Parnell, Kevin Pietersen, HS Sharath, Rahul Sharma, Laxmi Shukla, Rahul Shukla, Ross Taylor, Manoj Tiwary, Saurabh Tiwary, Jaydev Unadkat, Murali Vijay, Jayant Yadav.