Just when it seemed it couldn't get any worse for Delhi Daredevils in their Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 campaign, team's youngsters decided to rise to the occasion and keep their team's hopes of making it to the playoffs, however slim it may be, alive.
The bygone week witnessed a mid-tournament shocker when Gautam Gambhir decided to relinquish his role as the Delhi Daredevils captain after the team suffered five defeats from six games. 23-year-old Shreyas Iyer, who didn't have much leadership experience at the highest level, was handed a team that was down in the dumps.
Add star all-rounder Chris Morris' exit due to injury, and it seemed as if the Delhi side would struggle to keep themselves afloat for the rest of the tournament.
KKR, on the other hand, would've retained some confidence from the 81-run hammering they had inflicted on the Daredevils at the Eden earlier, with the Gambhir-led side barely offering any resistance in that game.
However, things couldn't have panned out more differently in the 26th match of the tournament, with DD pulling off an all-round show to take the game by a commendable 55-run margin to notch up their second win of what has been a disastrous campaign so far, and keep their faint hopes of making it to the top four alive.
What was all the more special in the win was the emergence of a new hero in the camp. Not many have the best of starts in captaincy, especially if the player concerned happens to be a youngster who is entrusted with the reigns of a team in crisis.
The Mumbaikar though barely showed any nerves as he took on the new role — neither at the press conference on Wednesday when sat next to Gambhir, coach Ricky Ponting and Daredevils CEO Hemant Dua, nor at the Kotla two days later.
Having battled all by himself against Kings XI Punjab, producing a brave 57 off 45 which eventually went in vain, Iyer continued his sparkling form by notching up his third consecutive half-century, making him the top run-getter for his side already.
What started off as playing second fiddle to young Prithvi Shaw turned into a full-fledged assault against the KKR attack, with Iyer hitting the ball out of the park at will, collecting as many as 10 sixes and three fours along the way. Thanks to his brutal hitting, as well as a cameo by Glenn Maxwell, Delhi collected 76 off the last four overs for the loss of just one wicket.
While Iyer's knock of a lifetime is the result of the superlative form that he is in right now, he might have drawn some confidence from the start Delhi got, thanks to a fine half-century from teenager Shaw who made his second appearance in the cash-rich league. Shaw had made his debut against Punjab, and gave a demonstration of the batting prowess that had him branded as a 'boy wonder' in the Mumbai cricketing circles.
However, while he couldn't quite convert his start against Punjab, he showed a lot more maturity on Friday against KKR as he notched up his maiden half-century in the league, thereby becoming one of the youngest in the history of the competition to do so. One of the highlights of his innings was his battle against Mitchell Johnson. While the Australian pacer rattled him on the first three deliveries of his first over, with the batsman getting a couple of leading edges that fell short of the fielders, Shaw responded by slapping the fourth ball through the cover region for a boundary. It was Prithvi Shaw-show all the way thereafter, as he unsettled Johnson, collecting two sixes and a four off his bowling while racing to his half-century.
Even with a score of 219 on the board, Delhi needed some basic discipline from their bowlers and fielders to defend the target. Thanks to some lusty blows from Narine's bat, KKR were able to cross the 50-run mark at the end of the powerplay. However, difference between the two sides lay in the discipline showed by the Delhi bowlers in the first six overs, with as many as four Kolkata wickets falling in that period.
Barring the Andre Russell-Shubman Gill partnership of 64 runs, KKR never were in the game thereafter, with Delhi displaying agility in their fielding to go with the tight lines that maintained pressure on their opponents, and eventually led to the wickets.
With the victory, Delhi have not only moved ahead of Mumbai Indians on the points table, but have also improved their Net Run-Rate (NRR). More than the emergence of youngsters in the team, this win has instilled belief in the side of accomplishing the target of winning nearly all of their remaining games — the prospect of which would've appeared nearly impossible before Friday. Iyer, in a way, has inspired Delhi to believe in themselves on captaincy debut.