When you look at the teamsheets of various IPL franchises, they always throw up one or more star names. Players that can fill stadiums, whom people will come in to watch over and over again, the ones who are mega draws at the box office. Some teams have many such players — Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Gujarat Lions, and Royal Pune Supergiant. Others — Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad — make do with a couple of them.
This is the USP of this franchise league. It is the generous mix of Indian as well as overseas big-ticket cricketers all coming together to form singular units who then compete for the ultimate prize. And it is good business — for organisers, broadcasters, franchise owners, and cities/states owning stadiums, et al.
Weirdly enough though, Delhi Daredevils don’t necessarily adhere to this norm. Look up their teamsheet. Which name inspires the same selling point? They don’t really have a high-profile Indian cricketer on their rolls. Yes, Mohammed Shami and Amit Mishra are there, but when was the last time bowlers filled up seats in any format of the game, least of all T20 cricket?
Karun Nair hasn’t done much since scoring his triple hundred. Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson and Rishabh Pant are barely recognisable even when loitering about in crowded hotel lobbies. Among the overseas players, Quinton de Kock, Carlos Brathwaite, Corey Anderson and Chris Morris, all have decent value, but most of it pertains to what they can do on the field. Selling t-shirts, a synonym for star power, isn’t really their forte when it comes to Delhi’s franchise.
Maybe Zaheer Khan, but he is one for the oldies, who still swear by the golden generation and is quickly approaching his sell-by date. In that sense, Rahul Dravid is still their alpha name. But, for a franchise reeling under a spate of poor results since 2012, this isn’t about star attraction. This is about getting the right processes down, picking the optimal balance in the squad, and for that, if they have to play with a bunch of ‘relative’ unknowns, then so be it.
In other words, ‘experience’ is the watchword herein, at least that is what names like Zaheer and Dravid signify. You can also relate it aplenty with the likes of Mishra, Shami, Anderson, Morris and Brathwaite, who have excellent know-how of different formats in varied conditions. Even someone as young as Sam Billings too falls into this category as he has played in three different franchise T20 leagues.
Experience though doesn’t belie mistakes, and the Daredevils made an error in judgement on Saturday that could have cost them dear. They dropped Aditya Tare to make way for Iyer, and then asked Samson to open with Billings, both unsurprising moves. Well, they made a decent enough start, and were placed at 53/1 in 6.5 overs, when Nair came out to bat at No 3.
Both Iyer and Pant were better choices, for Nair is in woeful form at the moment. Since scoring that triple hundred, he hasn’t crossed 30 in any innings across different formats, and herein again, he could only manage a three-ball duck. One school of thought suggests that this was an ideal platform for Nair to knock the ball around and get some runs under his belt, as per the thinking of the Daredevils’ management.
But this is precisely the compromising thought-process that has cost Delhi dear in earlier seasons. They needed to be ruthless, and ought to have sent out a big-hitter like Pant or even Morrison to take advantage of the situation. Instead, Nair’s cheap dismissal deflated their momentum, and it was completely sucked out with a flurry of wickets just after the halfway mark when the Daredevils were placed at 103/4 in 13 overs.
It was at this juncture that ‘experience’ made its presence felt. Until then, Billings had played a sedate role. The Englishman has been given a job he wants, bat up the order and make an impression for selectors back home, and all he needed was a bit more responsibility. In the first two games, he has gotten off to a start but was unable to build on it. Against Punjab though, he was able to kick on from another start and finally made good on the potential that the Daredevils think-tank saw in promoting him to the opening slot.
When Pant got out at the start of the 16th over though, the scorecard only read 120/1. The par-score at the Feroz Shah Kotla is usually 160-170, and the home team were headed for it whilst they still had wickets in hand. The mini-collapse, though, reduced that estimate to 150, and it was only Anderson’s sublime finishing (39 off 22 balls) that reshaped the innings to a 180-plus score, with 68 runs coming off the last 30 balls. Here, it has to be said that the Kiwi all-rounder’s inclusion since the second game in Pune has led certain solidity to the side, and he has proven more valuable to Delhi in ten days than he did at Mumbai Indians in three seasons.
Once the score reached par-plus 188, it was always going to be a tough ask for Kings XI. Barring a Glenn Maxwell big showing, there was definitive confidence about defending this total for Delhi’s attack has really come of ‘age’, pun unintended. Their accomplishment was missed in Pune’s 97-run defeat, because that day belonged to Samson and his maiden T20 hundred. But this same attack had restricted Royal Challengers Bangalore to 157, a below-par score at the big-hitters’ friendly Chinnaswamy Stadium.
The Daredevils have hit on the right formula for their bowling attack, again thanks to the inclusion of Anderson. He shares the workload with Morris, thus allowing a free use of the second pacer (Pat Cummins so far, with Shami and Kagiso Rabada waiting in the wings) later in the innings. Zaheer takes the duty at the very start, as is his wont, and Mishra leads the spin charge in the middle overs.
The role of Shahbaz Nadeem cannot be neglected though. His figures in three matches so far are: 1-13 from 4 overs in Bengaluru, 1-23 in 4 overs in Pune, and 2-13 in 2 overs in Delhi in this third match. In a season where leg spin is taking the stage by storm, the left-arm spinner has been a revelation for the Daredevils. He is a primary cog in this optimal Delhi bowling attack, one to watch out for as the tournament progresses.
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Updated Date: Apr 16, 2017 11:18:29 IST