Here’s a Tuesday morning exercise for you. Find a Delhi Capitals fan (no, really) or even a fan of the Indian Premier League in general who might have gone to sleep before the end of the match in Mohali on Monday night, say around the 16th over of the run-chase. Tell them that Delhi went on to lose seven wickets for eight runs and lost the match against Kings XI Punjab, they would tell you it’s 2 April, not the first. Surely you are not fooling them.
Oh, but Delhi did capitulate that badly. Allow it to sink in. It really did happen.
As Delhi’s captain Shreyas Iyer said after the match, “I am speechless.”
We could talk this morning about Sam Curran’s stunning performance, as he finished with figures of 4/11 in 2.2 overs and a hat-trick. We could talk about the resurgence of Mohammed Shami as his dismissal of a well-set Rishabh Pant triggered the collapse. We could talk about the emotion behind R Ashwin’s celebration after a direct hit from mid-off caught Chris Morris off guard.
No, but there is only one thing that is really worth talking about: how on earth did Delhi Capitals allow that collapse to happen?
Rewind back a few days and you can see that the warning signs were there for Shreyas Iyer and Co on Saturday night at the Feroz Shah Kotla against Kolkata Knight Riders. With 18 runs required off 18 balls and a well-set Prithvi Shaw still batting alongside Pant, it seemed a victory was but a formality for the Capitals. The two points did add up against their name eventually but not before they bungled up the run-chase in the first place and needed a superb Super Over from Kagiso Rabada to defend 10 runs against the might of Andre Russell.
Iyer said after the match that it should not have lasted as long as it did — it was well past midnight when that game eventually got over. There were, of course, scenes of jubilation in the Delhi camp after that thrilling win and the young side deserved to celebrate it. But you could have bet your bottom dollar that coach Rick Ponting and mentor Sourav Ganguly would have ensured that the team knew they almost paid for being reckless in a run-chase.
Merely two nights later, it happened yet again and this time, there was no Super Over to save themselves the embarrassment — just a superb over from Curran to seal an incredible 14-run win for Kings XI Punjab. Remarkably, Delhi Capitals failed to cross the line while chasing 167 when there were two partnerships worth 61 and 62 in their innings —nearly 75% of the runs they had to score to win the game.
Lessons not learned
On Monday night, at the end of 16 overs in their innings, KXIP were on 136/4. They went on to lose five wickets in the next four overs and added just 30 more runs to their total. A target of 167 was clearly not a difficult one, as KXIP’s top-scorer David Miller admitted to Punjab not making the most of the batting conditions.
Later during the Delhi innings, the scoreboard read 137/3 after 16 overs. They needed the exact number of runs KXIP made in their last four overs. At that point, there should have been only one winner in the match and it was not supposed to be the team in read and silver.
Pant, at that instant, hit a six over mid-wicket off Shami to further cement Delhi’s position. They needed 23 runs off 21 balls. And the very next ball, he went for another cross-batted heave and Shami’s stump-to-stump line paid off. Still, Colin Ingram was well-set at the other end and Chris Morris was walking out. Still no reason to panic.
Only, Morris was walking back to the pavilion at the speed he came in, run out by Ashwin’s brilliance and his own misjudgment. Now, there was a sense of panic setting in as the Mohali crowd found its voice.
But even the most optimistic Punjabi could not have foreseen what followed as Delhi went on to lose their last 7 wickets with just 8 runs added to the total from 144/3. From there on, it was a procession as batsman after batsman swung their bat looking for the killer finish, when some amount of restraint and common sense would have gone a long way.
The wrecker-in-chief at that point was Sam Curran, who became the youngest bowler in IPL history to register a hat-trick. He got the rewards for bowling full and straight, opting to stick to the basics of death bowling at a time when he was unable to hear himself think, as he put it after the match. Remember, Curran is only 20 years old and was playing just his second IPL match — and yet, he showed the maturity beyond his years to keep things simple and reaped his rewards.
Which was precisely what the Delhi batsmen failed to do.
The average age of the Delhi top four is 24.25 and that includes Shikhar Dhawan who is 33 years old. There is no question that, as likely as they are to entertain with their audacious strokeplay, they will, from time to time, display the inexperience in their ranks. For their sake, they must hope that the punishment for not learning their lessons from the nervy win against KRR is just the two points they threw away in Mohali.
Fool me once, fool me twice and all that — a lesson that could not have come on a better day, and perhaps, still early enough in the tournament to make amends. As Iyer said after the match, these are the kind of defeats that will prove costly in the final equation.