The IPL season began with a bang for Delhi Capitals. But after four consecutive defeats — by 59 runs to Kolkata Knight Riders and 88 runs to Sunrisers Hyderabad, and by 5 wickets and 9 wickets to Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians respectively — at the business end of the league stage, Delhi Capitals now run the risk of failing to qualify for the playoffs.
Why has the team that was being billed as the most complete T20 outfit barely three weeks ago, been in free fall since then?
Trouble at the top
Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw as openers should worry opposition bowlers. However, they have not fired in tandem. In their last six games, Delhi have lost at least one of their openers in the first over itself.
Dhawan did enjoy a resurgence mid-way into the tournament by slamming back-to-back hundreds, but Shaw’s problems have been two-fold. First, he has been exposed by the short-pitched delivery. Second, the youngster’s lack of discretion in his stroke-play has been his bane.📣 Express Explained is now on Telegram
Scores of 4, 0, 0, 7, and 10 in the last five games is a grim indication of his troubles. The team management parachuted Ajinkya Rahane as opener intermittently, but even this gamble did not pay off.
In the first six games, Delhi’s batsmen scored at 9.2 runs per over. But in the subsequent seven matches, that rate dropped to around 7.3.
Diehard fans may blame the slow, worn-out tracks in the UAE as the reason why their marauding stroke-players were finding it difficult to fire. But the truth is that their middle and lower order have collectively failed to inject momentum in the batting.
In the game against KKR in Sharjah on October 3, contributions of Delhi’s top four batsmen — captain Shreyas Iyer’s 38-ball 88, Shaw’s 66, Dhawan’s 26, and Rishabh Pant’s 38 — catapulted them to a match-winning score of 228/4. But barring that match, there have been only stray instances — such as Shimron Hetmeyer’s blitz against Rajasthan Royals and Marcus Stoinis’s assault against Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Part of the problems can be attributed to the fact that barring Dhawan, none of the remaining batsmen have the ability to switch gears easily. This came to the fore during their 9-wicket loss to Mumbai Indians on Saturday, when Iyer and Pant consumed 44 balls to score 35 runs.
This conservative approach would have paid dividends had either of them gone on to play a big knock. That did not happen. Overall, it was a colossal batting failure, one that was brought about by a muddled approach.
Injuries to Ishant, Amit Mishra
Losing experienced bowlers Sharma and Mishra with an abdominal muscle tear and a finger injury respectively, were major blows.
In Sharma’s absence, they failed to find a reliable third seamer, someone who would not fritter away the good work done by Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje. Harshal Patel was pencilled in for this role, but he doesn’t have the pace and zip of a fully fit Sharma. Patel’s three scalps have come at close to 9 runs per over.
Tushar Deshpande was then assigned this job, but his inexperience and profligate ways — he picked three wickets in five games and conceded 11.29 runs per over — has hurt the team’s chances.
Their spinners, too, have gone off the boil.
In the first six games, Axar Patel and Ravi Ashwin averaged 16 runs per wicket. In the subsequent six matches, their average ballooned to 50. The meagre returns of Axar and Ashwin underlined the absence of a wrist spinner like Mishra, who has been such a vital cog in Delhi’s bowling machinery.
In an ideal world, Delhi’s bowling line-up would have read as follows: Rabada, Nortje, Ishant, Mishra and Ashwin. Five bowlers with experience, skill and smarts to rattle any team.
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Rishabh Pant conundrum
Four years ago, Rishabh Pant captured the imagination of fans and pundits with his blistering strokeplay. Having made a name in white-ball cricket, the 23-year-old now finds himself out of the reckoning from Team India’s shorter formats.
These days, he looks like a tormented soul, perpetually caught between attack and defence. Perhaps nothing is more glaring than his underwhelming strike-rate of 112 from 10 games in this IPL. A hamstring injury didn’t help matters. Pant has not registered a single fifty in this edition so far, with the 17-ball 38 against KKR in Sharjah being his highest score.
Part of the problem stems from the fact that head coach Ricky Ponting used him to anchor the innings, a role in which he has struggled. In hindsight, Delhi would have been better served if the wicket-keeper batsman was pushed down the order as a finisher.
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