After their emphatic 39-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad, Delhi Capitals released a video of head coach Ricky Ponting’s rousing dressing room pep talk. It shows Ponting handing out medals to Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada and Colin Munro, before quipping: “Such a thing has never happened before, but since this was such a standout team performance tonight, I’m handing over these medals.” This gesture would evoke thundering applause and guffaws in equal measure from the team-mates.
Quintessentially, this video sums up the buoyant mood in the Delhi dressing room. There’s little doubt that camaraderie and team spirit have been the watchwords that have catapulted them to the second position in the league table. This has been equally backed up by their varied bowling, which has, at times, made up for their insipid batting. This is a factor that the Mumbai Indians will be wary of ahead of their duel against Delhi at their home turf on Thursday.
— Delhi Capitals (@DelhiCapitals) 16 April 2019
Leading their attack is the rejuvenated Ishant Sharma, who is enjoying a second wind. Despite being sidelined in white-ball cricket in recent times, the speedster has managed to translate the confidence gained from his stints in Test matches into this IPL.
With just four scalps from his six matches, the 31-year-old has by no means been prolific in his returns. What he has done spectacularly is in the way he stifles one end up with his precision. This is a facet that Ponting points out in the video. “Ishant did not get wickets for us, but he conceded just 19 runs from three overs in the Power Play. That set the tone for us in the match,” he said.
Ishant’s parsimony was complemented by the fiery Protea pace duo of Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris. Together, they have accounted for 28 wickets this season. This was the case in point against the Sunrisers too, when they ran through their brittle middle order, with their burst of pace and cross-seamers.
As Ponting asserts in the video, “We were 20 runs short, but still managed to win by 40 runs because of our bowling.” If Rabada and Morris are not enough, opposition teams also had to contend with an ever-improving Keemo Paul’s medium-pace and the wily Amit Mishra in the middle overs. Having the luxury of such a varied five-pronged attack has earned them three back-to-back away wins and a realistic chance to clinch a play-off berth for the first time since 2012.
Mumbai, on the other hand, will take heart from Delhi’s lacklustre performances at home. Ponting’s team has seen calamitous implosions in two of their three matches at the Feroz Shah Kotla, while huffing and puffing to a narrow win against the Kolkata Knight Riders in the other that went into the Super Over. At the core, it’s the inherently worn-out Kotla track that has hampered Delhi’s illustrious bevy of stroke-makers. This can be attributed to their below-par scores of 147/6 against CSK and a more abject display of 129/8 against SRH.
After their loss to the Sunrisers in the previous home encounter, Ponting had said: “I think it is fair to say that this wicket has surprised us a lot. Talking to the groundsmen before the match, we thought this would be the best pitch. However, I have to say that this is by far the worst that I’ve seen.”
A fortnight later, the Delhi head coach did indicate that his team has finally found their groove on this tricky wicket. “It should not be difficult for us anymore. We have an understanding of how this wicket is going to play. As expected, it is going to be quite slow and low and we expect it to turn a little bit. More than us, I feel it would be difficult for Mumbai to come and play here,” he said in the run-up to their match against Mumbai Indians.
Ponting will hope that sense of bonhomie and positivity within the dressing room quells talk surrounding the pitch and his team’s shoddy home record. “We want to play some good cricket at home, which we haven’t done so far. We have four more matches at home and we want to win them and clinch our spot in the play-offs,” he concludes.