IPL 2016: Delhi Daredevils a machine fine-tuned to perfection by Dravid and Co - Firstpost
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IPL 2016: Delhi Daredevils a machine fine-tuned to perfection by Dravid and Co

Imagine yourself a motorhead, bidding to break-in that second-hand car/bike you just purchased. You get all the parts as per the list, maybe a couple of them overpriced but worthy in terms of long-term investment. You fit them in, get it wrong a couple times, and go back to the drawing board. After a patient approach, you finally get the right mix. The engine starts revving and you take out the beauty for a spin. At first, you are cautious, trying to make sure everything is working fine. Then you push it more, step by step, before you are finally ready to take it out on the highway to open its engines up and unleash the beast you have nurtured.

It is a powerful feeling; one of raw adrenaline, when your machine tunes out just the way you wanted it. Quite something like Rahul Dravid's exultation, teeth clenched, on his toes, fists pumped, as Zaheer Khan got Kieron Pollard and the game turned in favour of the Delhi Daredevils at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Saturday afternoon.

Make no mistake; if Dravid is the mechanic, this Daredevils' side is a work in progress. The narrow 10-run victory was another step, nay, another bolt, screwed in place of the machinery he and the rest of the support staff is putting together. They got it wrong in the first game against Kolkata Knight Riders. Re-did most of it, and revved up the engines in the next two matches, pushing as they cantered to two back-to-back wins.

Delhi Daredevils captain Zaheer Khan celebrates with his teammates. BCCI

Delhi Daredevils captain Zaheer Khan celebrates with his teammates. BCCI

Against the Mumbai Indians, they revved up the engines higher, put on more acceleration and rode to victory in style. The manner in which they scored 164-4 and then defended it with aplomb signifies that this side is galloping to full tuning at a hectic pace. In particular, their fight in the field, to squeeze the Mumbai middle order, was a fine piece of T20 cricket.

Five overs, from the 13th to 17th, went for only 25 runs as Rohit Sharma struggled to get on strike. He faced only 11 balls in this period, scoring nine runs, as his partners couldn't get the ball away either. Delhi rotated their senior bowlers well, with Chris Morris, Zaheer Khan, Amit Mishra and Imran Tahir all doing a fine job.

While Rohit's affliction for getting involved in run-outs hurt his side, Mishra's googlies did more damage. Mishra's importance in a T20 set-up cannot be stressed enough. If the pitch keeps low and is dual paced, he launches grenades more often than not. His experience and guile in this format — and tournament — is a proven record. As such, the Kotla wicket is usually to his liking, and he has picked six out of his nine wickets this season at this ground. It could have been the reason why Tahir was also included in the XI, and the two leg-spinners did their trick, with Pollard unable to pick them and Rohit unable to farm the strike at the other end. The other vital point emanating from his selection is that the Daredevils are in a confident space, willing to experiment with their playing XI as per the opposition and conditions. It is a singular most representation of a team on the upswing.

Tahir's inclusion meant that Carlos Brathwaite had to miss out. It was a huge call and it nearly cost them, for Pawan Negi is unsuited for the number six role. Thanks to JP Duminy though, they were able to steal away 46 runs off the last four overs, thus putting the score just out of Mumbai's reach. This is the precise role that the South African needs to perform, and he understands that very well.

Yet, his runs weren't the highlight of Delhi's innings. It was instead a combination of the reckless dismissals of Shreyas Iyer and Karun Nair, and then Sanju Samson's controlled half-century. The former two almost borrowed from their Eden Gardens misadventure, falling to poor shot selection, before the latter saved the Daredevils any blushes.

The Kerala batsman-keeper has struggled for runs in domestic cricket this season. IPL though is the easy ticket not only to fame but also redemption. If he can get going in this tournament, he will not lose out in the race for an Indian spot, when the right moment comes along. And it is a fact not lost on him. There was determination to stay at the wicket. In between, there was a hint of genius, especially when he came face to face with Harbhajan Singh. An audacious reverse sweep for four stood out as the Turbanator walked back shaking his head.

Samson's knock was a remarkable reminder of how the Daredevils could have stuttered to a standstill. But his resolve to bog down and get hard runs fuelled their victory. And now, they are cruising comfortably and are second in the points table.

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