The Delhi Capitals have a reputation. A well earned one at that, based on their performances over the last few years. They are the eternal strugglers. But this season, there is something different about them.

Yes, there are the collapses. The shot-selection is strange at times. The inexperience is evident too. Yet, with every game, they are learning and growing as a team; growing into real contenders.

The last time they played Kings XI Punjab — Delhi Capitals lost seven wickets for eight runs to gift R Ashwin’s team a victory after sitting pretty at 144 for three in the 17th over while chasing 168 and had left skipper Shreyas Iyer speechless. It was a collapse that made the term ‘Nayi Dilli’ morphs into ‘Nahi Dilli’.

But on Saturday, they found a way to fight through a tough period thanks to Iyer. It wasn’t ideal but the fact that they emerged victorious will give them belief. This belief is vital if a young team wants to compete with the established legends.

Dhawan’s return to form is a big plus for the Capitals. Not only is the left-hander scoring runs but over the last four games, he is scoring them at a healthy strike-rate of almost 150 as well. His consistency and experience at the top of the order are crucial for them as the knockouts approach. He has been part of a team that has won the IPL and he is doing everything the team would have wanted when they decided to trade for him.

“I knew that we had to cash in the first six overs because it gets harder and slower after that. I have been preparing well for it and executing it on a match day. I just focus on my process and I feel that as an experienced player, I communicate more to ensure that we don’t lose wickets in crucial situations,” said Dhawan after the game.

His innings, 56 off 41 balls, on Saturday ensured that there were no early jitters for Delhi after KXIP had been restricted to 163/7 — a par score at best — thanks to Sandeep Lamichhane [3/40] and Kagiso Rabada [4-0-23-2].

Just as Dhawan’s presence at the top of the order gives the young DC batsmen confidence, Rabada’s standing as a bowler seems to be doing the same for the bowling unit. His spell had everything — pace, some good short balls and yorkers too. In 10 matches this season, he has already claimed 21 wickets with an economy rate of 7.69. The performances have allowed the other bowlers to rally around him and given Delhi a proper weapon to call upon at all times.

Iyer holding things together

And as his team is growing, so is Iyer.

His knock showcased a maturity beyond his years. Perhaps captaincy does this to players but Iyer clearly put the team’s cause ahead of his own. Young batsmen, especially those who have all the shots in the book, tend to want to put on a show. But Iyer put that instinct aside and played sensible cricket.

He picked up the ones and twos, waited for the bad balls and built a partnership with Shikhar Dhawan. The 92-run stand between the two kept the required run-rate in check and even though DC lost a few quick wickets — old habits are hard to change — Iyer ensured he was there, in the end, to finish things off.

One could sense the nervousness in the middle but DC managed to come out on top. It was just their second win at home and took them to third place on the table.

“[I am] really satisfied on winning this one after losing three home games. The way we played, it was really good to see. Dhawan got us off to a good start and that made it easier for the batsmen to follow. We want our top-order batsmen to play fearless cricket and that’s what happened. Dhawan is playing fearless cricket right throughout the season and that’s helping us. Either of the top four batsmen has to stay there till the end and take the team through. I took the responsibility today and I hope to continue that in the matches to come,” said Iyer, who has scored 327 runs in 10 games this season, after the game.

Delhi is looking dangerous and this is even without Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant finding any real consistency. But they have plenty of match winners in an outfit that is gaining confidence with every passing game and that is something even Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians will be wary of.