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Can Gambhir lead Delhi's redemption?

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Gautam_Gambhir_India_IPL_Delhi_Daredevils_CricketA decade of promise. A decade of disappointment. That has been the Delhi Daredevils story in the Indian Premiere League (IPL). The franchise has never been short of talent; they have had some really good players in their ranks. But a combination of bad luck and some truly bizarre chopping and changing by the Delhi team management has meant that they have flattered to deceive almost every season. Every year, Delhi puts up a strong team on paper and almost every year they have somehow messed things up on the field.

After another disappointing season last year, where they ended up at the sixth place, the Delhi management went for a complete overhaul of their side in this year’s IPL auction. By the looks of it, for the first time in a long time, Delhi might actually have the team to beat this year. A good blend of youngsters, experienced Indian players and overseas stars makes the Delhi team pretty formidable.

Perhaps the biggest boost is the return of Gautam Gambhir as captain. He has been one of the most successful captains and batsmen of the IPL and will be desperate to begin the turnaround of his home side.

With a strong, inspirational skipper and a talented bunch of players, the Daredevils should be able to put up a much better performance in IPL 2018. Yes, they lost their first two matches to Kings XI Punjab and a rain-assisted Rajasthan Royals. But Delhi has shown promise and the captain led from the front with an assertive half-century in the first match itself.

They might lose a few, but there are definite signs that the Daredevils will not go down easy this time.

A tainted past

No team in IPL’s ten-year history has underperformed as much as the Delhi Daredevils. They are, undoubtedly, the perennial underachievers of the tournament. Delhi was amongst the strongest sides in the first two editions of the IPL but somehow botched things up at the big matches.

Then the Delhi management changed and rechanged their squad. But rather than going forward they kept moving backwards and looked more disjointed as a unit with every passing season. Gambhir was let go and he went on to lead Kolkata Knight Riders to two title victories while also becoming one of the league’s most productive batsman. AB de Villiers was not retained and he produced magic for the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the following seasons. David Warner was with the Delhi team before becoming a superstar in Hyderabad.

The Daredevils have made a true mess of their selection policies in the last few seasons. Players have been dropped in the middle of the season for no apparent reason, which hurt the side badly. The likes of Yuvraj Singh and Pawan Negi were acquired for astronomical sums and let go after a lukewarm performance in just one season.

What the franchise needed was some stability and good leadership to hold the team together. Now with Gambhir as captain and Ricky Ponting appointed as head coach, Delhi can aim for a much-needed revival.

A chance for redemption

When Delhi Daredevils hit the reset button in this year’s auctions, they covered all their bases.

One of their biggest flaws these past few seasons was their brittle batting unit. They seem to have covered that by getting in an array of batting powerhouses. Delhi retained the talented Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer, and brought in T20 superstars Glenn Maxwell and Colin Munro.

Then there is England’s Jason Roy and Gambhir himself. South African all-rounder Chris Morris, another retained player, adds further balance with his hard-hitting abilities and will be a dangerous weapon lower down the order along with Australia’s Daniel Christian.

With Gambhir and Roy/Munro at the top, with Maxwell, Pant, Iyer, Christian and Morris to follow, Delhi’s batting looks pretty formidable. The Daredevils have also invested in Prithvi Shaw, Manjot Kalra, Abhishek Sharma and Vijay Shankar – all upcoming batting talents – who are likely to be utilized in the season.

Shaw, Manjot and Abhishek were part of India’s victorious ICC U-19 World Cup team in New Zealand this year and have oodles of batting talent. Vijay Shankar is a solid all-rounder who has been in very good form the past domestic season and can smack the ball a long distance. The last time Delhi’s batting looked this promising was in 2012, where they topped the league stage. Will they be able to reproduce that magic?

In the bowling department, Delhi has always been pretty good. Missing out on Kagiso Rabada due to injury is a major blow, but they still have enough options. The fast left-arm swing of Trent Boult is being used first up, followed by Mohammed Shami and Chris Morris as the other two fast bowlers. Vijay Shankar and Daniel Christian can also be utilized for a few overs in the middle with their seam bowling.

Delhi’s spin department, even without any big names, is pretty robust. The experienced Amit Mishra (the second-highest wicket taker in the IPL with 134 wickets), Shahbaz Nadeem, Jayant Yadav and Rahul Tewatia are handy options for the captain. They will be useful on the slow surface of the Feroz Shah Kotla.

Gambhir is an astute captain who knows how to utilize his players. It was a trait that helped lift Kolkata Knight Riders out of a rut and become one of the best teams in the league. Delhi will hope that Gambhir does the same for them. Playing at his home ground, he knows the conditions inside out.

Having the experienced Ricky Ponting by his side is an immense help in chalking out the team’s strategies with some clarity. Clearly, Gambhir is the best man for Delhi at present and it will be fascinating to see how he and Ponting go about the franchise’s transformation.

Despite the early losses, Delhi seem to have assembled a very good combination this year. There is an air of expectation that this time their fortunes will be different. That this time they will not be mere pushovers.

Daredevils must win Delhi’s faith  

More than anything else, the Daredevils owe it to their Delhi fans to put up a good performance. For years, the Delhi fan base has been left wanting and disappointed with their team’s lackluster efforts. The fans have thronged the stadiums every year, supporting their team passionately. Unfortunately, they have not been given much to cheer about.

It is high time that the Delhi Daredevils repaid the faith of their fans. Even if the Daredevils do not win the title, it is essential that they win back Delhi’s fans. They have the team for it. They have the captain for it as well. All they need is to put in their best efforts and not overcomplicate things, as they have tended to do in the past.

Gambhir’s first objective will be to see his team through to the Playoffs – that in itself would be a major achievement. One must not forget that talented though this squad is, it is almost completely revamped. The players will take time adjusting and responding to each other as a unit.

It would be imprudent to expect too much of this new-look team. But while IPL 2018 may not be the year in which Delhi wins its maiden title, it can very likely be its year of redemption. This can be the beginning of Delhi Daredevils 2.0.

 

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