At some point during Delhi Daredevils’ hapless loss against Mumbai Indians, commentator Mike Hussey interviewed their coach/mentor Rahul Dravid. It was a wonderful television sight as one legendary former cricketer interviewed another. The devil though, pun unintended, was in the detail.
Two comments from Dravid stood out. “It is a great learning experience for these kids, facing tough situations and playing in front of great crowds. When they go on to play for India, they will not feel the pressure,” he said, first.
Then, Hussey asked Dravid about his coaching style, given he has been around this young bunch of players – currently known as Daredevils’ failing batting line-up – for some time now. “My style is not to change players too much, not to mess up their thinking,” Dravid replied, hinting at his great learning in seeing Greg Chappell in action a long time ago.
Obviously, it is the right thing to do as coach. The best you can do is put your arm around them, especially the youngsters, when things are going wrong and talk to them about what they could have done differently. Given Dravid’s demeanour, there would have been plenty of ‘putting arm on shoulder’ and ‘talking’ in that Delhi Daredevils’ dressing room this past week, thanks to their disappointing losses against Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad.
There are times, however, when the coach/mentor needs to fling his cap in disgust. Yes, Dravid has been known to do that too when with Rajasthan Royals, and Delhi’s loss at the Wankhede on Saturday night warranted another such candid moment. Make no mistake about it, this young batting line-up comprising of the likes of Sanju Samson, Karun Nair, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer – all seen as the future Indian batsmen – showed why they aren’t simply ready yet. They are not the finished product, not enough to be wearing that blue jersey regularly just yet.
Samson played too early and failed to check his shot enough, holing out to mid-off. Iyer could have left the ball for wide, but instead ended up edging behind as he sought to go for fine flick. Nair played on, as his luck just isn’t turning. So much has been written already about his poor run that shows no sign of abating. Then, there is Pant. Not a day passes when there isn’t social media chatter about his chances of making the Champions Trophy squad. On evidence of his three-ball duck at the Wankhede, he didn’t get his feet going against the moving ball, and didn’t adjust enough for the movement. Playing in England is a bridge too far for him, as it isn’t a walk in any IPL park.
The bottom-line here is simple enough. The Daredevils went from 1/1 to 24/6 in the space of 6.3 overs. At no stage through that staggering collapse was the 143-run target too daunting. All it needed was some patience, and time, at the crease, enough to see out the opening bowlers and stemming the fall of wickets. It needed those youngsters to farm the strike, ignore the asking rate and get a partnership going – basically fulfill the responsibility that has been thrust on their shoulders. At no point, did any of them put his hand up. If Dravid wants them to learn from their tough experiences, going on their performance in the last three games, it will not be a steep, rather a stretched-out lengthy curve.
Meanwhile, that partnership did come with Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris attempting the impossible. 24/6 is a point of no return in T20 cricket, and props to the South African duo for keeping Mumbai honest. This isn’t about that consolation partnership though. This is about changes the Daredevils made to their side, and why they were good and not so good.
Let us start with that latter first. Aditya Tare came in for Sam Billings, who has scores of 25, 24, 55, 21 and 13 so far, but more importantly he put up decent opening stands with Samson. There was an understanding developing between the two, which the Daredevils sold off in hope for an inspiring performance from Tare against his old team. T20 cricket doesn’t work on such whims and fancies.
The other aspect of Tare’s inclusion was bringing in Rabada. Ever since the players’ auction, there was this suspicion that the Daredevils would struggle to find an optimal combination with four overseas picks. Despite the absence of Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy, this game at the Wankhede was when that rankling doubt came to fruit. Corey Anderson was fit again, so they had to make room for him. Chris Morris is near non-droppable, even if they didn’t give him any deliveries to bat in the previous game. The only option was between Billings and Pat Cummins. They went in with the latter, and while it worked in the first half of the game, it backfired in the second half.
Let it be said here that the Daredevils’ bowlers put in a spirited performance after their poor showing against Kolkata and Hyderabad. Let it be said that Amit Mishra once again looked like the most successful spinner in IPL history. Let it be said that this pace attack – with the experience of Zaheer Khan and the pace of Cummins and Rabada – looks the most threatening in the current tournament. Let it be said here that this was a complete bowling performance, perhaps the best we have seen or will see this season, or indeed in the recently past IPL seasons.
Rabada’s inclusion was an inspired one. On a day when MS Dhoni took Rising Pune Supergiant to victory in proper Dhoni-esque fashion, it needs to be remembered that young Rabada had shackled him back in 2015. It was perhaps the first time a bowler had enjoyed such success against the greatest finisher this game has ever seen. Since then, Rabada has only gone from strength to strength, and his performance against Mumbai Indians was evidence of why he is thought to be Dale Steyn’s apt successor.
Simply put then, Rabada put in a sterling performance – with both bat and ball – and in T20 cricket, such a showing is worthy of a match win. That the Daredevils couldn’t return victory for his efforts is a proper reflection of their fall from grace this week. They were placed at 4 points from 3 matches seven days ago, and now are placed at 4 points from 6 matches. Time is starting to run out if the Daredevils want to find some noteworthy solution to this free-fall.
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Updated Date: Apr 23, 2017 09:58:25 IST