Weird as it may sound, Royal Challengers Bangalore are a very dangerous side at the moment. Sure, their batsmen are struggling for momentum, their bowlers are struggling to make a crucial impact, their fielders are struggling to hold catches, and their captain is running out of ideas. It is no wonder that they are almost out of running for the play-offs.
As of now, it is a pride thing for Bangalore. They want to register that first win, and mathematically still hope to be in contention, if not theoretically. This is where the danger emanates from. This will be another close IPL season for the middle-rung teams and as the race for play-offs heats up, no one would want to trip up. Someone definitely will, even if it is a stretch to see Bangalore registering a win here. And when that happens, it will be a body blow.
In that light, Delhi Capitals will heave a sigh of relief that they didn’t trip up at a crucial juncture in their campaign. At best, Delhi have blown hot and cold thus far in the season, as they try to marry youth with experience. It has worked at times and fallen flat in other instances. The need of the hour after back-to-back losses to Kings XI Punjab and Sunrisers Hyderabad was to get back into winning mode. This is where Kagiso Rabada and Shreyas Iyer delivered for their team.
To begin with, the toss was quite crucial in this game for Delhi who increasingly look like a team that wants to be on the front-foot from the go. Maybe it is the joint influence of Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly, as both were aggressive captains in their time. They like to set the agenda, whether it is in terms of toss, team composition or even playing conditions. It is why the hue and cry about a slow, spin-friendly track at Kotla against Hyderabad wasn’t such a surprise.
Even so, winning the toss and opting to bowl is exactly what Delhi wanted to do, as has been their wont in previous games. It is a keen strategy for a relatively young batting unit – they want a target in front of them so as to build their innings accordingly. Of course, the first task is to restrict the opposition, and that is never an easy task against the likes of Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
Delhi trust in Rabada to deliver though, and as in the case of Jasprit Bumrah, it is increasingly obvious why he is one of the best bowling talents going around. On a wicket with good bounce, he mixed up deliveries cleverly, using change of pace to fox batsmen both early and late into his spell. And while that took care of more experienced batsmen like Kohli and Parthiv Patel, bowling full pace later in the innings helped Rabada snare another two wickets to finish with his best figures in IPL.
Rabada’s time with Delhi has been mutually beneficial. As a young, but brilliant pacer, he sits well with their theory of building the franchise up. Meanwhile, they have shown deep faith in the South African and retained him for many years now. Perhaps 2019 is the season when this relationship is at its productive best.
He now leads Delhi’s pace attack, even as Ishant Sharma and Trent Boult have proven consistent and expensive at times. Rabada holds one spot in the bowling attack, allowing the team management to use other resources around him and bring in different permutations to the playing eleven. Not to mention, he gels well with Chris Morris, another Proteas’ stalwart in the Delhi camp.
Barring the game against Sunrisers, Delhi’s bowling has been widely on the mark. Meanwhile, they have been let down by their batting line-up’s inconsistency, particularly in the game against Punjab when they slipped from an easy, winnable position. This is the key hurdle Delhi have to overcome if they are to stand any chance of making the Play-offs, and graduate from an also-ran team.
In that light, Sunday’s game could be a starting point for this Delhi batting line-up.
So far, Delhi have had spurts from Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant and Colin Ingram. They have missed flourishing knocks, particularly from the top-order, or impactful cameos from the middle order. But more importantly, they have missed someone to anchor the innings every time they have padded up.
Delhi Capitals had hoped Shikhar Dhawan would be that man. He started off well with 43 and 51 against Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings respectively, but since then, his form has tapered down with 16, 30, 12 and 0 in the ensuing four innings. While it is a bit worrying from India’s World Cup point of view, there is still time in the tournament for Dhawan to recover his form for the upcoming English summer. This, however, is about Delhi Capitals, and they might not have as much patience.
This is where young skipper Shreyas Iyer has become pivotal to the Delhi batting line-up. Coming in at number three, he is slotted to make a significant impact for his side and Iyer is just only starting to join the dots. He started slowly with 16 and 18 against Mumbai and Chennai, then put up 43, 28 and another 43 against KKR, Kings XI and Hyderabad, before coming up with an anchoring, match-winning knock of 67 against Bangalore on Sunday.
Sure, there is a touch of inconsistency therein but this is T20 cricket and it is to be expected from a singular batsman. The underlying point being that Iyer is the bedrock Delhi have been searching for in the batting department, and he is starting to realise that this line-up revolves around him. To his credit, the youngster has juggled captaincy duties very well and if he could get himself back in national contention, the future could look very bright for him indeed.
In the short term meanwhile, Delhi Capitals will be hoping that Rabada-Iyer’s form will spur a wave of consistency in their team’s play overall.