Where does a team which comprises seasoned campaigners Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Ashish Nehra — and an Under-19 World-Cup winning, skipper Unmukt Chand, finish at last season? Fifth. In all, they could eke out just two wins. In the season prior to this, they had registered the same number of wins. Gambhir and Sehwag played just one match each for their state in 2012-13.
This comparison is not being made to put the onus of changing the fortunes of the Delhi side on the shoulders of the two former India openers but rather highlight the rut the team has slipped into.
Sehwag and Gambhir take fresh guard this season as they strive to put aside the disappointment of not being picked in the World Cup probables list. It presents them with an opportunity to focus on helping uplift the 2007-08 Ranji Trophy champions, a side which has struggled to replicate similar success.
On Saturday, on the eve of their Ranji Trophy opener against Saurashtra, at the Roshanara grounds, both Sehwag and Gambhir were seen indulging in banter but the team think-tank will have to do some serious introspection if there is no change in fortune this season. The 2011-12 season when the side struggled to stave off relegation is one the team will not want to repeat. The presence of big names in the Delhi team, a side which can boast of supplying the Indian Test team currently touring Australia with Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma, has not guaranteed success.
Chopping and changing of personnel, especially the bowlers, is one of the reasons that has resulted in lack of stability in the team. In the previous season, Delhi experimented with their bowling attack in all their league matches. Five different medium-pace bowling combinations were used. Ashish Nehra featured in six games, and so did Parvinder Awana, while Sumit Narwal played five games, Pawan Suyal played two matches, while Navdeep Saini played only one. Narwal picked up nine wickets against Gujarat but was rested for the next game against Mumbai, a match in which Pawan Suyal took his place in the bowling line-up.
Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya, however, terms the chopping and changing as a rotation policy. “Delhi will use the rotation policy quite often this season. I don’t want a bowler to become a liability for the team after five overs in a match even if he had taken a five-wicket haul in his previous game,” Dahiya said.
However, the lack of collective success as a bowling unit has pegged back the side.
Delhi also didn’t play like a unit which knew how to win. Against Punjab they conceded the advantage by replying with just 150 after bowling them out for 74. Punjab then made matters worse by posting 402 in their second innings. Against Karnataka, then were bowled out for 200 at the Feroz Shah Kotla, widely acknowledged as a placid track.
This after they have made a mini revival following a poor start which resulted in bagging three points from their first three matches (including a washout against Jharkhand). Sixteen were added in the next three and it looked like Delhi had injected life into their campaign. It all came undone during during the games against Punjab and Karnataka when outright wins were the need of the hour.