The mention of Delhi in Indian Premier League circles is usually met with a snicker. Over the years, if there is one team which has been the byword for chaos in the T20 league, it has been Delhi. They bring in big coaches, big players, successful captains and somehow, all these players under-perform once they start playing for Delhi. Some might put it down to luck but mostly, Delhi have never planned for the future.
They have chopped and changed teams with a glee that a child usually reserves for the toy room. The result of all these changes was that they never had a settled look and their fans never quite knew who to cheer for. But this season, things might finally be ready to change.
Under new owners, JSW, the team can look forward to a more professional approach from the management and their young stars with the likes of Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer having the potential to turn in some real firecracker performances.
Last year, there was a similar feel to the team at the start of the season but Delhi were the first team to be eliminated. Typical Delhi one might say but the experience of that season will stand the youngsters in good stead. The team retained 10 players in the auction and that feeling of continuity will help.
In 2018, Rishabh Pant arrived in style. His 684 runs came at an average of 52.61 and at a mind-boggling strike-rate of 173.60. Shreyas Iyer, who was made skipper after Gautam Gambhir decided to bench himself, was in fine form as well – scoring 411 runs at 37.36. Trent Boult (18 wickets) and Amit Mishra (12) were the bowling stars but Delhi’s engine starting revving too late last season.
One big plus for them this season will also be the presence of Ricky Ponting [as coach] and Sourav Ganguly [as advisor]. If anything, this team shouldn’t lack for good advice.
Delhi in IPL over the years
The big changes for 2019
Delhi bought 10 players in the auction. The big buy is Shikhar Dhawan, a proven IPL performer and someone who knows the city well. The left-hander was a consistent performer for Sunrisers, even if his strike-rate was a concern at times. But alongwith the more aggressive David Warner, he had a formidable partnership. His experience could help the younger players along and that will be a big plus for Delhi in the long run.
Keemo Paul, Sherfane Rutherford and Colin Ingram add a nice foreign blend to the mix while the presence of Ishant Sharma could prove to be key in the pace department, which has talented young domestic pacers like Nathu Singh and Bandaru Ayyappa along with big overseas names like Kagiso Rabada and Trent Boult.
Ishant has gone on record about the perception that people have about him not being a T20 bowler and maybe, he just might be inspired to try and change that this year. His performances in Test cricket over the last year have seen him morph from a bowler who bowled good balls to one who takes wickets. If he can do the same for Delhi, his team will be in a good place.
Delhi, finally, seems to have a squad that can inspire the fans to turn up and support the team. In the past, we’ve seen fans lose interest in the franchise but expect that to change this season.
Indian players under World Cup radar
Dhawan came up with a brilliant 143 at Mohali against Australia in the ODIs but he has otherwise endured a torrid 2019 with the bat. He is still India’s first-choice opener for the World Cup but if he has a very poor IPL and KL Rahul has a brilliant one, will he still remain first choice?
In that sense, there will be some pressure on Dhawan to put his best foot forward. He isn’t one to get too worried about anything but scoring runs will also mean that he is in a good frame of mind ahead of the World Cup where he is expected to play a vital role.
The rest of the focus will be on Pant. He has been compared to Dhoni and that can never be easy for anyone. But for Pant, the key parameters will be his shot selection and his performance behind the wicket. He’s got all the shots in the book and if he can get his mind right, he will definitely be on the flight to England.
The word from the Indian team is that Kohli wants Pant on that flight but the selectors are still holding their cards close to their heart. The only player who can take Pant’s place in the World Cup squad as the second wicket-keeper and finisher is Dinesh Karthik, who has been in and out of the squad over the last couple of years.
Iyer will also be one that the selectors will keep an eye on. He, somehow, seems to have fallen off their radar but his class as a batsman isn’t it doubt. In 6 ODIs for India, he has 210 runs at an average of 42.00 and while the No 4 position is still theoretically up for grabs, one can’t rule out the Mumbai batsman.
Ishant thinks he has a chance of going to the World Cup as the fourth fast bowler but he will need to turn in a pretty special performance to even get the selectors to look at him. Still, isn’t cricket the game of uncertainties.
DC squad for 2019
Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Amit Mishra, Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel, Rahul Tewatia, Jayant Yadav, Manjot Kalra, Colin Munro, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Sandeep Lamichhane, Trent Boult, Hanuma Vihari, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Ankush Bains, Nathu Singh, Colin Ingram, Sherfane Rutherford, Keemo Paul, Jalaj Saxena, Bandaru Ayyappa, Shikhar Dhawan, Vijay Shankar, Shahbaz Nadeem.