During the telecast of Delhi Daredevils' game against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Thursday, Simon Doull interviewed team mentor Rahul Dravid. In the interview, Doull asked Dravid about the franchise's combination. "It is an interesting mix. We had 13 players from last season's squad and 13 new players coming in; a balance of youth and experience. We have looked to find the right balance," Dravid replied.
A lot has been said — and written — about the Daredevils' set-up this year. Most of it have been about how the youngsters have been brought in, with Dravid an obvious choice to lead them, hand-in-hand with Paddy Upton. It has worked so far; Karun Nair has looked good in the middle-order, Sanju Samson has started scoring runs again, Rishabh Pant has created waves in his few outings, while Quinton de Kock has been rock-solid at the top.
Shreyas Iyer's loss of form is a complete reversal of his Ranji fortunes, but it is the quintessential sinusoidal curve of any cricketer’s life. As such, only Pawan Negi has been a failure under this new regime, and most of it is because of that immense price tag and subsequent high expectations.
These have more or less been the main talking points, and they have superseded talks about Zaheer Khan's brilliant leadership, JP Duminy's revival, Amit Mishra's wrong ones, Chris Morris' all-round play, the excitement of Sam Billings' knocks and the sheer power in Carlos Brathwaite's sixes.
In a way, Billings, Brathwaite and de Kock do belong to that youngster classification. And it makes sense for the discourse to be about the youngsters, for the Daredevils climbed as high as second in the points table thanks to their performances. The seniors played a guiding hand in the first half of the season, until the team management decided to ring in unnecessary changes. Back-to-back losses against Rising Pune Supergiants and Kings XI Punjab saw them lose momentum.
Thursday night's game in Hyderabad assumed significance, as Delhi had a fight on their hands to stay ahead of the curve in the race for knock-outs. Mumbai Indians had started to catch up, while Kolkata Knight Riders, Gujarat Lions and the Sunrisers themselves were looking to pull out a gap. It was in this setting that the seniors in the Daredevils camp put their hands up, collectively, and made a firm impression.
The game started in a pattern that is becoming increasingly synonymous with their think-tank. Chop and change, whether out of necessity or not. Against the Sunrisers then, there was some sharp use for the former as Zaheer pulled out. Duminy was leading once again, and may yet do so for a couple more games. Against a strong batting order led by the explosive David Warner, they obviously felt the need to bolster the pace attack, and brought in Nathan Coulter-Nile. Billings and Brathwaite were dropped.
While it seemed a bold — and blind — decision at first, the Daredevils made it work. As such, for this stupendous victory over the table-topping Sunrisers, they have their seniors to thank who brought out their best performance of the season yet, that too collectively.
Duminy was as bold as Zaheer with his bowling changes. Never mind that Warner was setting the field ablaze once more, he persisted with Jayant Yadav up top and got the wicket he was looking for. The ball turned just enough to beat Warner's mighty swing and crashed into his stumps. The score read 67/1 in the 9th over, and that moment was the difference between Hyderabad ending up with 146 and not 20 runs more.
Of course, it is not to say the other batsmen were not up to scratch. But it has been well documented that Hyderabad are mighty dependent on Warner, and play around him. Despite their high-flying standing, and the return of both Kane Williamson and Yuvraj Singh, they haven't yet found that pivot in the middle-order that they can revolve around in the latter half of the innings.
This is the weakness that Mishra and Morris exploited. In the early part of the season, the leg-spinner started off as their go-to man after the powerplay ended. As time progressed, he has been better utilised in the middle stages, and bamboozled the batsmen once again with a clever mix of googlies and slower leg-breaks. However, the two wickets he got were both of quicker ones, two seam-up deliveries that turned late into leg, both backed up by good fielding efforts.
So often, the word "platform" is used for batsmen as they lay charge in the death overs. On this instance, Mishra's spell laid the stage for Morris and Coulter-Nile. The leggie had put immense pressure on the batsmen to get a move on, struggling at 113/3 with five overs to go. Both the Australian and South African were right on the money with their bowling, at the start and the end of the innings. To say that they put on the squeeze on Sunrisers' scoring would be an understatement, as they came away with combined figures of 4-28 in their four overs. With Mohammad Shami coming to the party as well, Sunrisers were never allowed to get away.
It was then no surprise that their young batting polished up the chase with ease, never mind the shocking decision that went against de Kock.
With the business end of the season now taking off, Delhi needed this win to get their challenge going again after two consecutive defeats. And the handsome manner in which they won underlined that they have the wares to fight the tough battles ahead, both in terms of youth and experience.
Published Date: May 13, 2016 01:44 pm | Updated Date: May 13, 2016 02:02 pm