Delhi Daredevils: Season Review
Played 14, Won 5, Lost 8, NR 1.
L L W W L W L W L L L L W NR.
After a mass overhaul of their 2014 squad following finishing eighth, DD rose just one place in the table in the 2015 season, to finish seventh. Given the size of their restructuring a seventh place finish is disappointing and underwhelming, however, there were signs that their new squad will be more competitive in the future.
After eight matches DD had won four and lost four and had an outside chance of finishing in the top four, they then proceeded to lose four consecutive matches, starting with a defeat to RR in which they surprisingly rested the leading IPL wicket-taker, Imran Tahir, before gaining a consolation win at the end of their campaign and seeing their final match abandoned.
Interestingly, only three teams, MI, CSK and RR scored more runs than DD, and no team conceded fewer than them. The stats tell a different story to the table and therein lies DD’s next challenge: learning how to win. Club captain JP Duminy appears to think so too. After the season ended he candidly admitted DD need to find the “winning culture” that underlies the likes of CSK, MI and RR.
Ultimately DD’s squad was probably not quite strong enough or deep enough for them to challenge consistently, however, their season was defined by injuries to two of their key bowlers which unbalanced their team from the very start and also the signing of Yuvraj Singh that radically reduced their options at the Auction. Had those injuries not occurred and had they not splurged on Yuvraj, then given how tight the league was this season things could have been very different for DD, and they should take heart from that.
The two injuries that shaped their selection were to Mohammad Shami and Zaheer Khan—India’s current attack leader, and India’s previous attack leader. Shami missed the entire season; Zaheer missed half the season. The pair’s absence forced DD to select an extra overseas bowler to bolster their attack, thereby weakening their top order which was without an opening overseas batsman. While their bowling actually sustained well their batting struggled to cope without that extra international quality and in the end too much was asked of too few.
Unable to pick an overseas batsman, Travis Head and Quinton de Kock being the two options, DD opened with the inexperienced pairing of Shreyas Iyer and Mayank Agarwal. DD’s batting strength on paper therefore lay in the middle-order, with international trio, Duminy, Yuvraj and Angelo Matthews—who featured more often than the alternative all-round option Albie Morkel—above wicket-keeper Kedar Jadhav. However, Yuvraj averaged just 19.07, Matthews 20.57 and Jadhav 23.62. DD were therefore massively reliant on Duminy, who did well, scoring more than 400 runs at an average of above 40, but given the struggles of Yuvraj, Matthews and Jadhav, it was asking too much of Duminy to score more prolifically than that. Admittedly, 20-year-old Iyer did have a fantastic season opening the batting, finishing as DD’s leading run-scorer and could arguably be named Emerging Player of the Season, but with only two of their regular top-six scoring runs DD were always going to struggle to consistently win matches.
Despite the absence of Shami and Zaheer, DD’s bowling coped pleasingly well. Nathan Coulter-Nile played 11 matches, taking 15 wickets and led the attack nicely. While leg-spin duo Imran Tahir and Amit Mishra took 24 wickets between them. Without Shami and Zaheer the fourth bowling position was shared between spinners Shabhaz Nadeem and Jayant Yadav and medium pacers Jaydev Unadkat and Domnic Muthuswami. All of whom coped well considering their fringe positions in the squad.
For DD’s final three matches they left out Coulter-Nile and picked de Kock, who replaced Agarwal to open alongside Iyer. de Kock scored two fifties in three innings and DD’s team immediately seemed more balanced with his quality at the top of the order and then Duminy, one of Matthews and Morkel and Tahir completing the overseas quartet. Considering DD spent so much money on just one player, Yuvraj, who failed to justify his enormous auction price, it is impressive that they managed to shape up as well as they did in the end.
Looking ahead to next season DD would be mad to retain Yuvraj on the evidence of this campaign. Yuvraj’s salary enormously reduces DD’s purchasing power at auction and releasing him would free up their ability to make additions to their squad that they must make if they are to make the step from promising hopefuls to top four challengers.
While de Kock impressed at the top of the order DD should look at signing a more established international opener. de Kock may well be a talent, and perhaps a more consistent talent by next season but he and Head do not give them particularly formidable opening options. They should look to sign someone like Alex Hales or perhaps Aaron Finch, one of whom could well be released by MI or maybe even look to find a high quality Indian opener. Spending a huge amount of money on someone like Shikhar Dhawan or Gautam Gambhir, if they can persuade SRH or KKR to release one of them, would be far more worthwhile than splurging money on Yuvraj. Indeed it should be said that DD would be foolish to pick up home-favourite Virender Sehwag at Auction if KXIP release him. He may have something to offer as a mentor but going back to him as a player would be a step back.
DD also lack a high-quality Indian batsman in the middle-order. Jadhav is a skilful player but had a poor season, while memories of Saurabh Tiwary’s successful early days in the IPL are now very distant and Manoj Tiwary has continued to disappoint. Perhaps a player such as Stuart Binny should be looked at, but even then he probably doesn’t offer the batting DD are looking for; Ambati Rayudu is another option. With consideration for what they do manage to do with Indians in the middle-order, DD should give serious thought to the continued presence of Matthews and Morkel. Matthews is a superb cricketer and should still have much to offer, but he underwhelmed this season and if they feel they can’t get the best out of him he should be released, especially when you consider he is on a large salary. Morkel too is arguably past his best. DD could do worse than open dialogue with KXIP about which, if any, of Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, George Bailey or Thisara Perera they are planning to release.
Bowling-wise DD have far fewer concerns. If they are going to open with an overseas player, have Duminy at three and then an overseas batsman or all-rounder in the middle-order, then they will have just one overseas bowling spot available, which makes sense given that they have Shami, Mishra and Zaheer in a strong Indian-based bowling attack. That spot should probably alternate between Tahir and Coulter-Nile depending on conditions, but DD should look to possibly reinforce Coulter-Nile’s replacement, although Gurinder Sandhu certainly wasn’t given a fair shot at it this season. They should also keep half an eye on the fitness and performances of Zaheer who bowled well this season but is ageing.
Gary Kirsten has been widely criticised for DD’s struggles this season, and while there is some doubt about his ability to translate his international coaching success to the world of domestic T20 it would perhaps be reckless to sack him after this campaign given that DD are showing signs of recovery and only underwent a major overhaul last season. Unless it emerges that Kirsten’s management is worse than we know, there are enough signs of promise to give him one more season to prove his worth. The consequences of change at this fragile point in DD’s recovery could be disastrous.
Perhaps the biggest lesson of this season is for the owners GMR. It is widely understood and accepted that the signing of Yuvraj was as much based in commercial reasons as cricketing ones. While Yuvraj’s signing will have no doubt had a positive impact on DD’s commercial clout, GMR should realise that the teams most successful on the pitch—CSK, KKR, MI and RCB—are also the most successful off the pitch. Focus on winning and then the fans and sponsors will come.