‘One step forward, two steps back’. When the Delhi Daredevils’ team management sits down to review the 2017 IPL season, this phrase will be an apt description of the season gone by.
Just look back at the past week and you will know why. 67, 185/3, 214/3, 66 – these are the last four scores of the Daredevils. On the face of it, this is a representation of too many inconsistencies in their thinking and strategy. Dig a little deeper, and there is also a marked difference between planning and execution.
Prior to that 67-all out in Mohali, the Daredevils had faced the ignominy of crashing to 24/6 in a 143-run chase at the Wankhede. At that point in time, it was their third out of five defeats in succession. Overall, it was the biggest deflating point of this season. You are allowed to ask why, if you care enough that is.
Up until that point, the Daredevils had only lost three out of five IPL 2017 games. Their losing streak wasn’t really one in definition. After all, in an unpredictable T20 league replete with international superstars, two back-to-back losses is a normal thing. It is how you break out of such defeats, and avoid a lengthy losing run, is what ends up defining your season.
Assuredly then, that first game against Mumbai was a defining moment for the Daredevils. Along with Kolkata Knight Riders, they have looked set for playoffs from the very outset of this season. And yet, Delhi managed to restrict them to 142/8 on their home turf. It was a replication of their bowling efforts in the first game of the season against Royal Challengers Bangalore, halted at 157/8. The Daredevils had failed to chase that score down, and they failed to chase in Mumbai too, showcasing that lessons hadn’t been learnt.
It was their greatest undoing, for these were below par-scores at these two high-scoring grounds in the IPL. Just imagine – two wins there, and four points, taking Delhi’s current tallying to 12 from 11 games, still keeping them in contention. Moreover, it would have applied brakes to their losing run and who knows things would have looked even better than aforementioned.
From the looks of it though, imagining hasn’t been the Daredevils’ problem this season. They can cook up different possibilities and scenarios in every game, and then dutifully respond with either no changes or too many changes. They didn’t mix things up whilst losing five games on the trot and it took nine matches for Rishabh Pant to be elevated to No 3. That experiment lasted all of two games despite its raging success, and you want to ask why.
You want to ask why Delhi’s winning combination from the previous game was changed? Zaheer Khan didn’t play the last two games, against either Sunrisers Hyderabad or Gujarat Lions with spinners Jayant Yadav and Shahbaz Nadeem stepping in to replace him. Once fit again, he was a sure-shot inclusion in the playing eleven. The question still stands though — did Nadeem deserve to be dropped? Did Khan merit automatic selection?
The one argument against Nadeem is that Daredevils did concede 200-plus in that last game. Yet, the arguments in his favour are that he was dropped unceremoniously in the middle phase of the tournament, and then brought back for one game in a similarly haphazard fashion. Additionally, he was rendered useless in that game against Gujarat because left-handed Suresh Raina – dropped early – went on to play a long knock. After the first over, Nadeem bowled only one more, and wasn’t effective for obvious reasons.
The bigger question though is of Khan’s selection. Of course, it does matter that he is the captain and thus the first name on the team sheet. But we have seen instances of captains dropping themselves in IPL before. In this IPL, in eight games, Khan has returned only seven wickets at an economy of 8.05. He returned 0-29 from four overs at 7.25 against Mumbai Indians. Delhi, of course, like to think that their best bowling attack is based on pace. But against the likes of Lendl Simmons and Kieron Pollard, that plan came undone very quickly on a pitch where 180-odd has become par this IPL season.
The other captaincy impact was a change in batting order. For some reason, despite Pant’s success in the last game where Delhi successfully chased down 209, Shreyas Iyer came out to bat at No 3 ahead of Pant, never mind that another target of 213 was at hand. It didn’t work out, as the young top-order once again played too many shots and exhibited no real staying prowess at the crease. It is easy to get carried away in criticism here, but it should be remembered that 200-plus is not chased in T20 cricket everyday. And the Daredevils had already done ticked that off their list two days ago.
Their line-up’s inability to stay put and put up a resistance is what should dismay the Daredevils’ think-tank though. This season was supposed to be one where the fruits from this youth-first approach could be reaped. Ravaged with injuries to top batsmen like Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy, it was still an opportunity to grow into their respective roles, but this young bunch – barring a few shining moments – missed out on making a discernible impression.
Throughout this tournament, Delhi have looked an unsettled team with too much talent on their hands. So much so, they do not completely know yet what to do with it, and there are only three games left in the season. Look at Mumbai in comparison, an outfit that looks well oiled, knows its plans well and executes them to the point. Both of Daredevils’ games against Mumbai should make for a study for the Delhi management.
End point then, is there any chance for the Daredevils going forward? With eight points from 11 games, and third-placed Kolkata on 14 points from 11 too, the answer is no. There is a mathematical possibility however. If Hyderabad (13 points from 12 games) and Kings XI Punjab (10 points from 10 games) lose all their remaining matches, then the Daredevils can sneak through if they win all their remaining games. On evidence of how their 2017 season is going though, it looks improbable, if not (mathematically) impossible.
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Updated Date: May 07, 2017 12:14:26 IST