After getting off to a dominant start in their opening game against Mumbai Indians (MI) at the Wankhede Stadium, the newly-christened Delhi Capitals’ (DC) homecoming didn’t quite go off as they would have liked.
The high of their victory on Sunday would’ve given their followers plenty of reason to be optimistic about. This side had, after all, displayed a lot of potential in the 2018 edition — one of their more turbulent ones in the recent years — despite finishing at the bottom of the heap at the end of the tournament.
A young side packed with the likes of Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, with a promising young leader in Shreyas Iyer, was expected to improve with the passage of time, and perhaps experience better fortunes in the 12th edition. The 37-run humbling of Mumbai at the Wankhede stadium was perhaps a sign of things to come.
The momentum that they gained in Mumbai, however, came to a screeching halt against an all-round Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in what was the first game hosted at the Feroz Shah Kotla in the national capital this season.
From finishing at a below-par total after opting to bat to allowing the opposition to seize the game early in their defence of a modest target, the Capitals faltered at crucial moments to suffer their first defeat of the season. A loss that came as a timely reminder to the camp of the weak areas that they need to address as the tournament chugs along.
“At the end of the day, it wasn’t the bowling that cost us the game. We were 20-30 runs short with the bat, which has been the difference in the game,” Delhi coach Ricky Ponting addressed the key reason behind the loss during the post-match presser.
The batting display at their home ground wasn't anything like that at Mumbai, where DC were off to a shaky start before Pant unleashed mayhem in the second half of the innings to help them post a 200-plus total. This time around, the platform had been built by the top-order for Delhi to eye the 170-run barrier, a score that would've been challenging to say the least on this surface.
Instead, it took just one magical over from Dwayne Bravo to derail their momentum. The Trinidadian is skipper MS Dhoni's primary choice for the death overs, and his variations combined with guile helped him collect three big wickets in a space of two overs, bouncing back in style after conceding 17 off his first.
If the build-up to the 15th over of the innings, during the course of which local lad Dhawan brought up his half-century with Pant starting to get into his groove, was a promising one, then their shambolic display in the last five was where half the battle was lost. That Shane Watson (44 off 26) obliterated the Delhi attack inside the powerplay, and managed to keep the run-rate going at 10-an-over with support from Suresh Raina at the halfway mark, sealed the deal in the visitors' favour.
While coach Ponting supported Pant by stating that it was humanly impossible to be scoring 78 off 20-odd deliveries on a constant basis, he did suggest that Dhawan's more composed approach towards batting since his move to the Delhi Capitals is likely to continue. Dhawan had lit up the ground in the company of David Warner, Kane Williamson and others during his stay at the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), and his change of approach over the last two games, something the team management have identified as 'his role', certainly hasn't gone unnoticed.
However, whether the team management is doing justice to his talent by advising him against playing his natural game is something that only the match results will be able to tell. There were questions posed to Ponting at the press conference about Dhawan's intent, and whether that made a difference or not.
It's safe to say that he was doing fine in his new-found approach till about the 15th over. It was his inability to seize the initiative after the departures of Pant and Colin Ingram in a space of a few deliveries, with the India opener himself top-edging a slower ball from Bravo later, that must have pinched him while heading back to the team hotel. More often than not, whether in India colours or in that of a T20 franchise, Dhawan has shown the ability to decimate some of the best bowling attacks in the world, and change gears quickly as per the situation of the game. Tuesday's game certainly wasn't one of those.
The Delhi middle order didn't do themselves any favour with the collapse either. While the fireworks at Mumbai was a one-man show, the middle-overs slump at the Kotla highlighted a chink in their armour that could become a key planning area for the opposition bowling units this season.
DC's campaign however, is just two matches old, and they certainly have got a fair idea of their strengths and weaknesses in the two contrasting results. The Capitals have another three days before their next game, in which they host the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Kotla, and that will give us a fair idea of this new-look Delhi side's ability to regroup and bounce back from a loss.