One of the new marketing ideas from Delhi Capitals (DC) in this 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) season has been the introduction of dressing room videos featuring coach Ricky Ponting giving a pep talk to his wards, before or after games.
His talk after they beat Mumbai Indians went viral on social media, perhaps buoyed by the mercurial knock of Rishabh Pant. And for good measure, for Delhi boast of a healthy balance of experience and youth in their set-up this season, whether in batting or bowling. Never mind the loss to Chennai Super Kings (CSK), this shone through in the tied-game against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) as the exuberance of Prithvi Shaw and experience of Kagiso Rabada (he is still quite young, himself!) in the Super Over saw them take full points.
Losing to CSK, in the manner they did, was important. Ponting and mentor Sourav Ganguly are old hats in this business. Going down to an experienced Chennai side, they would have stressed upon the importance of playing to the situation and not losing grip on the match when it matters most. Inexperienced sides tend to do that as also ones that do not hold back reins of youth, and Delhi paid the ultimate price in Mohali for their mistakes.
Let it be said here first, however, that Delhi have managed to shape balance in their bowling squad into the playing eleven. Starting the season with Trent Boult and Ishant Sharma, they quickly changed over to Rabada and Chris Morris as soon as the duo became available. Backing Sandeep Lamichhane has proven to be a success too, so much so that the team management is comfortable playing three bowlers out of four overseas players. They even used only three foreigners against Kolkata.
These are signs of a thinking — and evolving — dressing room, albeit it is one that has miles to go in the batting department as yet. Talking purely of bowling though, handing the responsibility of leading this attack to Rabada has been a masterstroke. He is one of the most fearsome bowlers in world cricket at the moment, and across formats, this should spur his rivalry with Jasprit Bumrah.
Over the last three games, Delhi’s bowling has evolved from strength to strength, particularly taking in the learning from the Chennai defeat. They looked at what they were doing wrong, and made calculated changes to the line-up to improve those factors. T20 cricket isn’t just about who can hit the ball farthest, it is also about restriction and bowling out opponents. Both Ponting and Ganguly understand that, and their effort to inculcate this in Delhi’s bowling attack reflects in earnest.
Again though, their batting department is proving to be a tough nut to crack. If the Delhi Capitals’ media team ever releases footage of Ponting after the Mohali loss, it ought to be the former Australian cricketer screaming his lungs out in frustration. With 23 runs needed off 21 balls at one stage, and seven wickets in hand, Delhi still somehow managed to lose that game. In this T20 era, it is a staggering statement whichever way you look at it.
Much of the blame lies with Pant and Colin Ingram, more so, since they were heaped with praises after victory over Mumbai Indians.
It is exasperating how Pant refuses to learn. He had just hit Mohammed Shami for a six, and then went for another mighty heave off a straight length delivery immediately, only to be bowled. Did the thought of playing the next couple of overs easily so that Delhi reach the target without any discomfort ever cross his mind? We will not know.
This is the difference between Pant and MS Dhoni. And no, one isn’t talking about Dhoni as he is now, for he is incomparable. When he arrived at the stage, Dhoni was every bit the dashing young keeper-batsman that Pant is today. The big difference, you ask? From the very beginning, Dhoni was quite temperate in his ways and always played to the situation, putting the team ahead of his own glory. That’s the difference in quality and thought process. Moreover, Pant needs to understand this — he isn’t playing club cricket.
Ingram too was guilty of the same approach. With 20 off 15 needed, he also heaved one straight to long off. It was astonishing to watch – as the last well-set batsman, he ought to have taken the responsibility and nudged singles/doubles to put pressure back on Kings XI Punjab. He didn’t, and R Ashwin’s side never let momentum escape.
And this is where credit is due to Punjab — only two of the latter Delhi batsmen fell to bad shots, the rest self-destructed owing to pressure and a brilliant run-out (Morris). It underlines how quickly Punjab have imbibed in their team Ashwin’s serious desire to win, while Delhi are still only learning the ropes.
Some day, they will become an all-conquering side, if they learn and improve, that is. Until then, Delhi Capitals’ collapse on Monday is one for the ages, and it should be shown as the definitive guide to every T20 team how not to chase.