Home is not where the heart is for Delhi Capitals. Somehow, despite touring pretty well, the Shreyas Iyer-led side has managed to pull off extra-ordinary losses while playing at home. Delhi Capitals have been consistently poor in IPL 2019 at Feroz Shah Kotla. Out of the four games played so far, they have won just one and that solitary victory was also a Super Over finish against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR). Against Chennai Super Kings (CSK), they lost the match by six wickets; against Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) by five wickets. On Thursday night, against Mumbai Indians, they continued their poor show at Kotla, going down in the match by 40 runs — a big margin in a T20 contest.
The one major factor behind their losses this year has been the failure of their middle and lower-middle-order batting. In the first game at home, opener Shikhar Dhawan (51 off 47) gave the team a good start but they lost the plot after he departed. Shreyas Iyer (18 off 20) and Rishabh Pant (25 off 13) could not bat deep into the innings and the next three batsmen ended up scoring 2, 0 and 9.
Against Sunrisers Hyderabad, barring Shreyas Iyer (43 of 41), the middle order slipped into another disappointment. Pant, Colin Ingram and Rahul Tewatia (Delhi’s No 4, 5 and 6 in that match) could only manage 5 runs each. In their only away loss against Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), the set pair of Pant and Ingram could not take the team home and what followed was a flurry of wickets after their dismissals. In fact, five out of those wickets were bowled dismissals, a trend they followed against Mumbai as well, where the visitors rattled the stumps of four Delhi batsmen. Getting bowled more often is another big issue which should bother the batting coach Pravin Amre.
On Thursday, yet again, no one in the middle order stepped ahead to guide the team home as Mumbai ran over the batting line-up in quick time after the mandatory powerplay. Delhi went from 49 for no loss in seventh over to 76/5 in the 14th over. In the middle overs, Mumbai did not only take wickets, they shifted the momentum of the game completely in their direction by bowling dot-after-dot. Iyer, Pant, Munro managed single digit scores. Axar Patel (26 off 23) and Chris Morris (11 off 9) tried to give a fight but by then the required run-rate had surpassed even the thought of a miracle. In fact, at one stage, Delhi appeared to be playing for a lower margin of defeat and help themselves with a better Net Run-Rate (NRR) on the points table.
One other reason for Delhi’s loss at Kotla had been their inability to read the track. Head coach Ricky Ponting had admitted after the loss against Hyderabad that the curator had expected a better batting wicket; instead, it turned out to be a slower track. On Thursday, things were not too different. On that pitch, even a score of 150 was sufficient, as told by both Amre and Mumbai’s Krunal Pandya in the post-match press conference. That, despite such nature of the pitch, only two genuine spinners were played by the home side against the three (Rahul Chahar, Krunal and Jayant Yadav) of the visiting team is surely a talking point. Lack of a third spin option may have pushed Iyer to bowl pacers in the mandatory powerplay despite Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock feeling at ease in the middle. They ended up scoring 57 off the first six overs. Amit Mishra got the ball in his hand, and bowled Rohit Sharma through a lovely leg-spinner on the very first delivery of the seventh over.
Rohit’s wicket changed the course of the match in the early hours of the game. With Axar bowling a spell of 1/17 off his 4 overs, Delhi pulled the match back. However, Iyer was forced to go back to Morris, Rabada and Keemo Paul again at the death and unfortunately for Delhi, all three of them had a bad day at office, leaking runs at over 9 RPO. Had there been a third spinner, Delhi could have managed to stop those 20 extra runs they gave in the last four overs. The fact that Mishra (1/18) ended up bowling just three overs on this track also baffles the mind. However, Amre said that Iyer went with pacers in the last overs to negate any threat against spin by the left-right hand combination of Krunal and Hardik Pandya. Nevertheless, Mumbai smashed 58 runs off the last four overs.
Not long after this loss, Delhi play Punjab at Kotla. A loss in this game may turn Capitals to their dark past. One of the key features of the Daredevils was their poor show in the second phase of the tournament. It is time to prove that the dark past is behind them and the win against Punjab could begin that very quest of the same. About time they justify their motto this year that This is New Delhi.