Delhi Daredevils went into the 10th edition of the Indian Premier League with a lackluster performance in the past 4 editions. They finished with the wooden spoon in 2013 and 2014, finished second last in 2015 and finished 6th in 2016. Delhi Daredevils failed to live up to the early promise they showed in the initial few seasons of the Indian Premier League where they reached the semi-finals in the first two seasons. During the IPL Player Auctions conducted in February this year, Delhi paid hefty sums for the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins, Angelo Mathews and Corey Anderson. This blog scrutinizes the performance of Delhi Daredevils in a very special 10th edition of the Indian Premier League.
There weren’t many positives for the Delhi Daredevils this year, who for the second consecutive season finished 6th and failed to qualify for the Playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, albeit, one vital positive has to be the performance of the youngsters. Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer finished the season as the top three highest run-scorers for Delhi this season, with all three amassing over 300 runs. All three youngsters also managed to pull off a victory single-handedly with vital knocks during the course of the season. Sanju Samson scored a match-winning 102 off just 63 deliveries with a magnificent strike rate of 162 against Rising Pune Supergiant which gave Delhi a comfortable first win of the season. He was also involved in a match winning partnership with Rishabh Pant where the duo scored 143 runs in a mere 63 balls and chased down a target of 209 with 15 balls to spare on a pitch where the average score is about 160-170. This partnership of 143 is also the fifth highest partnership for Delhi since the inception of the IPL. Rishabh Pant scored a scintillating 97 off 43 balls in this very match, having a strike rate of well over 200 and made of a mockery of the target.
(Photo by Arjun Singh – Sportzpics – IPL/ http://www.iplt20.com/photos/102150/ipl-2017-match-42-dd-v-gl)
Shreyas too chipped in with the bat and proved his mettle in a very tricky fixture in Kanpur, the second home ground of the Gujarat Lions. Iyer came into bat with Delhi in a spot of bother at 15-2 inside the first three overs chasing a score of over 190. He stitched together important partnerships, first with Karun Nair and then with Pat Cummins. Iyer went onto score a brilliant 96 off 57 deliveries and ensured the Daredevils beat the Lions for the second time in less than a week. The second positive that Delhi can take away from this season is their bowling. Delhi went into the IPL with one of the most potent bowling attacks which had the likes of Chris Morris, Pat Cummins, Zaheer Khan, Kagiso Rabada Mohammed Shami and Amit Mishra. Delhi managed to choke the opposition batsmen and restricted formidable batting line-ups. They cramped RCB and MI to sub 160 scores at their respective home grounds which have always been a batting paradise and also restricted RPS from chasing down a modest 168 in Delhi.
Delhi Daredevils faced two early setbacks even before the commencement of the 10th edition of the IPL with Quinton De Kock ruled out of the season due to a finger injury and JP Duminy deciding to withdraw owing to personal reasons. Delhi lost an explosive opening batsman in the form of De Kock and a calm and composed middle order batsman in JP Duminy who had tons of international experience, and somebody who was known to bail out his sides in times of crisis.
This left Delhi with a fragile looking top order with relatively young and inexperienced players. The first false move Delhi made was to replace De Kock with Ben Hilfenhaus. Ben Hilfenhaus was brought in as cover for the bowling attack due to the impending departure of Morris and Rabada during the business end of the tournament. This move cost Delhi dearly because they could have easily signed someone like Alex Hales or Michael Klinger, two explosive opening batsmen who are known to be T-20 specialists in place of the injured De Kock. Delhi’s inconsistent batting line up failed to chase sub-par targets like in the games against RCB at both Kotla and in Bengaluru and versus Mumbai where the hosts scored a paltry 142. Delhi were lacking a calm figure in the batting department and often made a mockery of their chases by getting of to starts like 21-6, or bundling out for 66 against MI and 67 against KXIP. The only Indian batsman in the team, who had some sort of international experience was Karun Nair.
( Photo by Deepak Malik – Sportzpics – IPL/ http://www.iplt20.com/photos/105503/ipl-2017-match-52-dd-v-rps/105626/)
In a scenario like this, it is his responsibility to lead from the front being the senior player, but Nair had a very mediocre season with the bat scoring only 281 runs and was also outscored by all three youngsters in the team. Before Nair’s 64 against RPS in the fag end of the season, his last score of 50 or more was his 303* against England back in December 2016 which is enough to indicate how poor a season he had with the bat. Another major disappointment for Delhi this year has to be Amit Mishra. Mishra who is the second highest wicket-taker with 134 scalps in the history of the IPL could only take 10 wickets this season. He also had a poor economy rate of 8.83 this season. One major issue with him has to be the amount of times he uses his conventional leg-spinner. He barely bowled the leg-spinner in an over and was bowling a lot more variations which led to him having such a poor economy rate.
(Photo by Shaun Roy – Sportzpics – IPL/ http://www.iplt20.com/photos/105503/ipl-2017-match-52-dd-v-rps)
A fine example of becoming ineffective with increased usage of variations is Ravi Ashwin. Ashwin had a poor series against Australia in 2013-14 where he focused on using his variations more than his stock ball, and was taken to the cleaners by the Aussies. He since has used his stock ball a lot more and there has been no looking back for him, he is now the most feared spin bowler in the world of cricket. Another reason why Mishra had a poor season was because he was looking to contain the batsmen rather than focusing on trying to get breakthroughs. Something that is also of concern with the Delhi team is their approach of ‘horses for courses’ where they frequently chop and change their sides as per the game. This strategy might sound good in theory but when it comes to the IPL, it hasn’t really been effective. Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings, have been prime examples of maintaining the same sides throughout the tournament with changes only when necessary. This gives the sides the much needed momentum required for success.
Season rating: 6/10
Delhi looked like they could challenge for a top-4 place but with De Kock and Duminy unavailable and Delhi not getting the correct replacements, the odds were definitely stacked against the Daredevils. A poor display from Indian experienced players, Karun Nair and Amit Mishra also did not help their cause. It although was a very good season for the youngsters because they not only got to rub shoulders with and against the best in the world but were also mentored by one of the finest gentleman cricket has ever witnessed, Rahul Dravid. Had they got in the right replacements coupled with solid performances from the Indian team players, it could have been a different story altogether.
The Way Forward
With the IPL Governing Council rumored to be wanting all the players in the auction pool, it will be very interesting to see who Delhi go for next season. But if the Governing Council decide on allowing the franchises to retain or permit the use of a Right-to-Match card which lets the franchise decide on whether to match the highest bid for their former player or not. Delhi should certainly retain or consider using the Right-to-Match card on the likes of Rishabh Pant and Chris Morris, and build their sides around these two. It will also be interesting to see if Zaheer Khan decides to play the next season or if he decides to hang up his boots, in which case Delhi could have him as their bowling coach to mentor the bowlers, which would be very beneficial for the uncapped Indian youngsters who get to learn from one of India’s best fast bowlers.