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Hope for the Daredevils?

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IPL_Indian_Premier_LeagueWhen the IPL began back in 2008, Delhi Daredevils had one of the most lethal line-ups in the league and played fearless cricket, led from the front by their swashbuckling skipper Virender Sehwag. They didn’t manage to make it beyond the knockout stages of the first two editions. Since then, Delhi Daredevils have been dismal. The last time they made the playoffs was back in 2012, where they boasted of the likes of Warner, Russell, Maxwell, Finch and Umesh Yadav among their ranks. 

The next 3 years, including 2015, Delhi Daredevils have been a total disappointment. Though their anthem was titled “Khelo Front foot pe”, they were mostly found on the backfoot, struggling to even qualify for the play-offs. 

2016 provided a fresh opportunity for them to turn things around. With Rajasthan Royals defunct for now, the Daredevils snapped up Rahul Dravid and Paddy Upton and an auction was to follow. Delhi went ahead with their plans of recruiting young players, including a few of Dravid’s Under-19 team, with a mix of experienced foreigners.

However, flawed strategy, players unclear about their roles, and constant chopping & changing led to yet another woeful season for the Daredevils and Dravid the mentor failed to impress in his debut season. 

In the 2017 auction, Delhi again tried to plug a few gaps, buying experienced overseas all rounders and pace men. But even before the season started, there was bad news for the Daredevils as two of their top batsmen, Duminy and De Kock, were unavailable. Dravid didn’t get bogged down. He believed in his young batsmen team. 

It all started really well for Delhi, as they won 2 out of their 3 games with the sole defeat coming only by a narrow margin. Things finally seemed to be falling in place and Delhi looked like they were shedding their underachievers’ tag. But the next 5 games spelled doom.

A number of mistakes including incorrect batting order, poor selection, lack of proactiveness, and flawed planning led to the inevitable slump. People were starting to get agitated not just with the losses but the lack of intent in the batting. The young batsmen weren’t figuring out when to accelerate and when to stay in the crease. This at least was probably a management failure. 

A captain and a coach with rich experience of cricket going wrong the way they did was saddening. It wasn’t just about the losses but the way they came about. The supposed Daredevils played with anything but daring and failed to mix aggression with caution. As a result, Delhi were struggling and losing fans quickly.

A run of home games was to start against the defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad and with little left to lose, Delhi hoped to turn things around and play some fearless, attacking cricket.

Acting captain Karun Nair won the toss and chose to field, risking the wrath of Sunrisers’ hard-hitting batting that could put Delhi out of the game. But the bowlers responded well and despite a strong start for Sunrisers, pulled things back for the hosts. It was Shami first, who sent Warner back in the hut with a perfect yorker followed by Mishra who then had Shikhar Dhawan foxed. Soon Shami sent Williamson back too with a fiery bouncer and the Sunrisers were in all sorts of trouble.

The wicket was holding up, Yuvraj was finding it hard to get his timing going and Delhi Daredevils seemed to be on top and more importantly, in the game. But a dropped catch from Sanju Samson opened the floodgates and a beleaguered Yuvraj Singh went berserk, guiding Sunrisers to 185.

Chasing 186 was always going to be tough for a less experienced Delhi Daredevils batting line-up and while, the situation shouted for Rishabh Pant to open, Sanju Samson and Karun Nair walked out to do the unthinkable.

The first over usually sets the tempo and when the first half of the over saw Samson defend, the chances looked bleak and it seemed Delhi has yet again walked out without any real intention. But what followed was what every Daredevils fan and even the cricket fans wanted to see.

The Delhi Daredevils showcased their daring side and played some fearless cricket. Nair and Samson in no time put 40 on the board but then what happened was not the home team would have wanted. Samson fell playing an uppish drive but the good thing about that dismissal was the intent. 

In what seemed perfect strategy, Rishabh Pant walked in at the fall of the wicket and then Nair took over from where Samson left, hitting the Sunrisers all around the park. Soon he too fell and then it was Rishabh Pant’s turn to take over.  The mission was then carried on by Iyer and eventually Anderson to help Delhi cruise to a win.

The best thing about the win was not only the intent shown by the Delhi batting but a more effective strategy, both in terms of how to play the middle overs but also the batting order. Delhi kept the momentum going and one batsman took over from the other smoothly. Unlike earlier, Delhi did not have 2 batsmen at the same time, trying to settle in and just play the singles game. The intent was evident; there was a sense of fearlessness about the way they went about.

Delhi Daredevils finally played like a set of daring devils and that was a huge lift for the team and the fans. With another 4 games to go at home, Delhi would want to keep up the momentum and the style of play and look to get past the line and into the playoffs. And if they continue to play the way they did against a champion team in Sunrisers, there isn’t a reason why they still can’t get into the top half.

 

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