Despite the disappointment of watching their team sink to losses more often than not, the turnouts at the Feroz Shah Kotla continued to impress the league organisers.
Saturday's clash between Delhi Daredevils (DD) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) attracted what could be described as the biggest turnout at the venue so far in the season, even if the home side was one defeat away from sealing their exit from the tournament.
It didn't help that the Daredevils once again could not find luck on their side despite witnessing quite a few spirited performances from their personnel. Individual brilliance doesn't always get you through in team sport, and even though the 45th match of the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) saw the likes of Rishabh Pant and Sandeep Lamichchane punch above their weight, the team ended up with a five-wicket loss that officially made them the first team to fall out of the race to the playoffs.
Coming to the events of the match, one of its most noticeable takeaways was RCB skipper Virat Kohli's decision to take the pace off the ball against the Delhi openers, starting off with Yuzvendra Chahal. The ploy bore fruit almost immediately thereafter, as the wily leg-spinner got rid of both Prithvi Shaw and Jason Roy in a space of a few deliveries
Shaw, who had been enjoying a brilliant run of form for most part of the season, did show some weakness against spin when he was dismissed early by Shakib Al Hasan in the home game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, and that is perhaps what might have led to Kohli's decision to introduce Chahal early instead of bowling Umesh Yadav and Tim Southee from the two ends.
While the two openers couldn't get their team off to the kind of start that they would've hoped, Pant continued from where he left off against the Sunrisers Hyderabad and laid the foundation for the side to breach the 180-run mark for a second consecutive game.
Pant warmed up with a couple of boundaries against Southee and Umesh, but it was perhaps the back-to-back sixes off Mohammed Siraj's bowling that would've boosted his confidence at the centre, inspiring him to bring up his seventh IPL half-century and the fourth of this season. The young wicketkeeper-batsman perhaps has hardly let Delhi's lack of performances seep into his head lest it tamper with his form, and will continue treating the remaining games of the tournament as an audition for a longer run in the Indian limited-overs teams.
The biggest talking point of the evening though, aside from the batting bromance between Kohli and AB de Villiers that sealed the game in favour of RCB, was the Delhi management's decision to reward some of its untapped potential with a game, thus giving debuts to India U-19 cricketer Abhishek Sharma, Nepalese spinner Sandeep Lamichchane and South African pacer Junior Dala. While Dala had a forgettable day out at the Kotla as he leaked runs at more than 11 an over, it was a memorable day indeed for the other debutants.
All-rounder Abhishek not only showed his power-hitting abilities by finishing on 46 off just 19 balls, but showed how mentally ready he was for the highest level of cricket despite being only 17 years of age, as was visible in the manner in which he toyed with New Zealand ace Tim Southee, collecting two sixes and a four off the 17th over of the innings. A half-century on debut would've been magical for the Punjab native, but that was not to be.
Lamichchane made an entire nation as well as a certain cricketer-turned-commentator going by the name of Michael Clarke proud when he got rid of Parthiv Patel with a full-pitched delivery that trapped the RCB wicketkeeper-batsman lbw for a score of 6. Budding cricketers from the mountaineous country would've been inspired by watching one of their own bowl to the very best in the world in one of the top cricketing leagues, and achieve success. Becoming the 13th nation to have a representative in the cash-rich league, here's hoping more talents emerge from the South Asian nation, and that they follow the footsteps of the likes of Afghanistan in their growth. Lamichchane, on the other hand, would've had a lot to learn by bowling to Kohli and de Villiers last evening, and is definitely one to watch out for in the remaining games.
Even though the Daredevils might have officially lost out on a spot in the playoffs after this defeat, making their fixtures against Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians a mere formality, the Delhi team management can draw some confidence from the way their youngsters have performed in the season so far. The results might not have gone their way this year, but the team's core is getting stronger with each passing day, and only bodes well for the years ahead.