What Delhi Capitals (Finally) Got Right This IPL Season
Poor management decisions, a never-ending search for that elusive winning combination and an imbalanced squad had all led to Delhi’s downfall in the previous editions of the Indian Premier League. Having never reached the IPL final before – forget the top-two, they did not venture into the top-four since 2012 – the Delhi supporters had resigned themselves to disappointment year after year.
However, 2019 might just be the season things turn around.
Rebranded under a new name and with new co-owners, who made some smart selections during the auctions, Delhi Capitals now stand on the cusp of history. With a young skipper, a balance of youth and experience in the squad, and two of cricket’s greatest brains Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly in the camp, Delhi has looked refreshed and eager to reverse the trend after a dismal start to the IPL 2019.
A Rough Start
A jarring lack of application and over-reliance on the top-order is what came to the fore in Delhi’s first five games. Winning two – including one in the Super Over against KKR – the inability to play with maturity is what stood out, as Delhi resigned itself to the bottom half of the table once again. After a fine win over Mumbai in their opener, Delhi went down to Chennai with none of the batters, sans Dhawan, rising to the occasion.
They let KKR get away after having them on the bat at 61 for 5, and had one of their worst collapses ever against Punjab wherein they lost 7 wickets for only 8 runs to lose a game they had almost sealed. The batting woes haunted Delhi against SRH as well – a game where Ponting was seen vehemently giving orders from the ropes.
Whether it was the Aussie’s stern words might never be known, but since that glaring loss, DC look a rejuvenated side. They have played their cards right by chopping and changing the team according to conditions, and though they have struggled at home they have been one of the best teams on the road in this year’s IPL.
The batting department has been led by the duo of Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer, but the other members have not been afraid to raise their hand up either. The Team India opener was acquired in the trading period, and little has he disappointed with 486 runs in 14 innings. His experience has perfectly complemented youngster Prithvi Shaw’s exuberance, and together the duo have been on fire in the first six overs, which then allows the middle order to flourish.
Skipper Shreyas Iyer has led from the front with 442 runs while Rishabh Pant has played some handy cameos at crucial junctures. With Colin Ingram and Sherfane Rutherford contributing when asked as well, the batting unit has been fearless. No other team in this IPL has such a consistent batting order. While sides like SRH, Punjab and Rajasthan have relied on their top-order, KKR and CSK have been led by the run of their middle-order.
Rabada, the League’s Star Bowler
Delhi’s stumbling block was always their bowling attack that lacked accuracy and seemed to give runs aplenty throughout the innings. This season Kagiso Rabada – injured in 2018 – has played a huge role in the turnaround. The pacer from South Africa who can constantly clock 145 kmph was on fire in this edition of the league, before a back niggle forced him out.
Though he has missed the last 2 games, he still owns the Purple Cap for his 25 wickets. Be it bowling the perfect yorker to stop a high-flying Andre Russell in the Super Over, or getting rid of David Warner with a slower ball on a sluggish track at Hyderabad, Rabada has been on the money, with his variations and his maturity helping his and the team’s cause.
In the aforementioned game against SRH, Kane Williamson’s men just needed 156 for a victory and were well on course after the opener laboured his way to a fine 50. However, Rabada set Warner up for the dismissal, and within fifteen minutes, Delhi had the game in their pocket. The South African was helped by Keemo Paul, who snarled three wickets in that game, but he has been equally assisted by Chris Morris, Sandeep Lamichhane, Axar Patel, Amit Mishra and Ishant Sharma throughout this league.
Ishant has been the surprise performer in this IPL – the Indian has played only 14 T20Is and has an average of 50 with the ball. This season, he has not only kept things tight by conceding runs at less than 7.7 an over, but has also scalped 10 wickets. His rise and Rabada’s unerring bowling formed a potent new-ball attack, which not only troubled rivals but has also made run-scoring tough. The duo combined to get 225 dot balls from 510 deliveries that they bowled – almost 44 percent of their total deliveries. The fact that no other bowler from Delhi except Trent Boult bowled more than 75 dots last year sums up the massive progress that the bowlers have shown in 2019.
A Solid Back-Room
Instead of relying on a select few players to guide them, DC has been blessed with a good bench strength, which allows Iyer to chop and change his 11 according to the conditions on offer. Hence, players like Lamichhane are brought into the team on conditions that suit their style of play and are left out in Mumbai, Jaipur and Kolkata, where the track does not assist the spinners as much. Keemo Paul was brought in at Kolkata where he picked two wickets and he played the next match at Hyderabad, where he further got three, but was dropped in favour of Lamichhane when the caravan moved to Delhi, a venue where the pacers do not find much help.
Morris too has faced a similar fate. The all-rounder has been in and out of the team – he was in the playing 11 when DC faced Rajasthan at Jaipur and was not picked when the juggernaut moved to the Kotla against RCB. Lamichhane had to make way for Morris at Jaipur, and he replaced him at Delhi. This sound knowledge of every player’s strength, the awareness of the conditions on offer and the ability to change the squad accordingly has been a major reason for Delhi’s rise this year.
Though the side will miss the services of Rabada in the business end, they have players who can take up the role in his absence, and it would be safe to say that a clever handling of the franchise with an open mind is what has led to their success in IPL 2019.
(Sarah Waris is a postgraduate in English Literature has taken on the tough task of limiting the mystic world of cricket to a few hundred words. She spends her hours gorging on food and blabbering nineteen to the dozen while awaiting the next Indian sporting triumph.)