There was a time in this edition of the IPL, not too long ago, when Delhi Capitals – along with Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore – had pulled away from the others in the race to the Playoffs. Now, as the league stage enters its last round, these three sides are still at the top. However, while Mumbai are guaranteed a top spot, Bangalore and Delhi have fallen behind; and given their ordinary net run rates, a defeat in the last match – when they play each other – may well spell doom for both.
This is particularly true for Delhi (-0.159), whose net run rate is behind not only that of Bangalore (-0.145), but also Sunrisers Hyderabad (+0.555) and Kings XI Punjab (-0.133), both of whom are two points behind them. In other words, they as good as have to win their last match.
So, what went wrong? Why did Delhi lose four matches on the trot after winning seven out of nine? Ajinkya Rahane played two of these matches: he got a golden duck in one and played a useful cameo in the other before being replaced by Prithvi Shaw – who did not do much either.
In the first of these matches, Shikhar Dhawan got his second hundred of the season, batting through the innings with a 61-ball 106 not out. He followed this with scores of 6, 0, and 0. Dhawan has been Delhi’s go-to batsman this season, and his failure has certainly come as a major blow.
But Delhi’s major problem has been the simultaneous struggle of Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant, both of whom had played key roles in their success over the past two seasons. It is not that they have not got runs. They have. But they came at a rate way too slow. By the time they were done, Delhi did not have enough firepower to help them reach that big score.
Iyer and Pant have clearly slowed down considerably. Worse, between them they have faced 203 balls across these four matches – about 51 balls a match.
This is evident from the partnerships they had. They added 63 in 53 balls against Kolkata Knight Riders (chasing 195!) and 35 in 44 against Mumbai. Of course, the quality of attack they were up against was superb (especially Mumbai’s), but their record across not one but four matches tells the story.
It is not that Delhi did not try. With an improbable 220 to chase against Hyderabad, they promoted both Marcus Stoinis and Shimron Hetmyer above Pant and himself. When they failed, he immediately reverted to Plan A. One may argue that they had to see off the initial overs, but holding the onslaught back till after the 10th over was never going to work against Mumbai, who do not have a weak bowler per se.
*Hetmyer missed three matches out of the first nine
While Dhawan’s (and his partner’s) failure might have led to slow starts, Iyer and Pant delayed the onslaught for too late, often leaving very little for the others. This meant that Hetmyer and Stoinis, who had scored at better strike rates than Iyer and Pant over the first nine matches, were allowed only 62 balls between them in four matches – 2.3 overs for two big hitters.
With no time to settle down, Hetmyer and Stoinis struggled every time. When they got a chance, the target (220) was too steep to make a match out of it.
Perhaps some change in batting line-up may come in handy in the match against Bangalore. They could have left out a struggling Pant to add some firepower to the batting, but he is their only Indian wicketkeeper. Resting him will mean they have to leave out one of Hetmyer, Stoinis, and their two South African fast bowlers.
And then there is the bowling. Delhi batted first in seven of their first nine matches. They won six of these. Chasing, they won one out of two. Their batsmen had always provided their bowlers enough buffer. Of the seven occasions they batted first, their lowest score was 157 and they crossed 175 four times. Batting second, they once chased down 180.
But the bowling attack that had backed up their batsmen so well till now fell apart thrice in a row. They failed to defend 165 against Punjab, then let Kolkata pile up 194/6 and Hyderabad 219/2.
In fact, in every match they have had at least two bowlers going for nine or more an over.
The Punjab match makes curious reading. All three of Rabada, Ashwin, and Axar conceded only 6.75 an over, while Daniel Sams (playing for Nortje) went for 7.50. Delhi controlled the match for 16 of the 19 overs bowled – and yet could not finish things off.
However, a similar reason cannot be applied to the other contests. Even if one discounts the Mumbai match (the target was too low), one or more of the frontline bowlers always went for runs. Worse, they failed to pick up wickets, thus allowing to put up at least one major partnership every time.
Delhi have taken 14 wickets in their last four matches amidst these partnerships. Of these, Rabada and Nortje have taken four apiece. These may not seem too bad, but one must remember that Rabada had taken 19 wickets in his first nine. Nortje – the only bowler to hit 154 kph this time (he has done it four times!) – has had a tough phase too.
As is evident, their economy and balls per wicket have both taken a toll.
It is difficult to come back when one of batting and bowling starts failing. When both do at the same time, it becomes almost impossible. Of course, Bangalore – their opposition in the last match – are also coming off a massive defeat.
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