We are past the one-third mark of the tournament and as has often been the case in the last few seasons there is a separation between eight contenders. The Delhi Daredevils were one of the team many experts pencilled in to be in the top of the pool, but instead they find themselves last on the ladder with a solitary win from five matches. We look at what has gone wrong for the Daredevils in this season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) so far.
Revamping the coaching staff does not guarantee success
In the past two seasons under the coaching regime of Rahul Dravid, the word in focus was always ‘process’. The results to an extent almost became irrelevant as Dravid set a goal for his players to improve their games, even if at times it came with a loss attached to it. This season Dravid and chief, Paddy Upton along with TA Shekar have moved on.
In came Ricky Ponting — the man’s coaching vision best described by Shabad Nadeem as ‘desperate to win’. Alongside him came James Hopes, the bowling coach and they also roped in Gautam Gambhir as the captain. A lot was expected under the new setup, but we quickly learnt that bringing in a new gameplan takes time to implement and it might take another year to brew success.
No 'home' matches
Each team in the IPL has to travel, but due to a peculiar schedule the Daredevils are yet to play a match in Delhi. They will have the luxury of coming home strong, but it might be too little too late and they could be buried in the expectations. History suggests that the teams that have finished high on the ladder have had a formidable record at home and formulated a recipe on their home turf that has enabled the team to play a certain brand of cricket.
For the Daredevils, they have constantly been playing on conditions alien to them. The pitches in India are different and the dimensions of the grounds are unique. Delhi's power-hitting side is best suited to the small playing surface of the Feroz Shah Kotla, but the problem is they are still yet to play a game there. While there is plenty of time for the Daredevils, playing five away matches has certainly affected their ability to make the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi their fortress.
Ponting cannot solve everything
Ponting is seen as the messiah that was destined to change the fortune of the Daredevils. Ponting has a hands-on approach towards coaching. He spends hours with batsmen and bowlers in the nets explaining the technical aspects of the game. Shreyas Iyer spoke highly about him, describing his pet talk before the season as ‘It gave us goosebumps’, but at the end of the day it is not the Australian that takes the field and it is the players that need to execute the gameplan.
Ponting has been really animated during ‘strategic time-outs’, but from the results it is clear that his players are not transforming those words into action. Daredevils have learnt that recruiting a high-profile name as a coach does not guarantee immediate success and it takes a while for the players and the coach to form a rapport.
When Dan Christian was asked about his team's poor start to the season, he summed up by stating it was due to the concentration lapses for three to four overs in each game. The length of a T20 innings is generally for 90 mins and for the Daredevils to lose focus for short periods in a game is a major concern.
In the opening match, it was the first four overs of the powerplay with the ball; in the second match, it was a mediocre first two overs in a six-over game; against Kolkata an ill-disciplined three-over spell in the middle overs allowed Andre Russell to cut loose; and then against Bangalore, a subdued start during the power play prevented them from getting a score close to 200. Every team in the IPL has had an ‘easy’ win apart from the Daredevils, which seems to indicate the minute the match is in the balance the Daredevils seem to lose their intensity.
Team balance or individual success
At the IPL auction in January, it seemed like the Daredevils had recruited diligently. The squad contains emerging young Indian batsmen — Iyer and Rishabh Pant; they have hard hitting all-rounders — Glenn Maxwell and Chris Morris; power-hitting top-order batsmen — Colin Munro and Jason Roy; a formidable bowler in Trent Boult; seasoned IPL campaigners — Amit Mishra and Shabad Nadeen; and a skipper — Gautam Gambhir.
How can a team, which seems to have all bases covered, be languishing at the bottom of the table? One aspect is that the team has relied far too heavily on one person during one match. The Daredevils are yet to put in a collective performance.
The inclusion of Mohammad Shami in the early games has also been error of judgment. The Indian pacer has been lacklustre. Senior players such as Mishra or Gambhir have failed to live up to their high IPL standards. Cricket is about bowling and batting partnerships, but sadly for the Daredevils, their performances thus far have evolved around one individual than a team effort.