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By Shrikant Shankar
Delhi Daredevils surprised the crowds by not retaining anyone in the India Premier League (IPL) Player Retentions for 2014. There were widespread rumours that they had retained Kevin Pietersen and David Warner, but in the end they announced that their management had unanimously made the decision in order to build a new team. This also meant that Virender Sehwag will now be up for grabs at the auction.
Sehwag has been the face of the Delhi team right from the beginning. He was an icon player and captain at first. He then handed over captaincy to Gautam Gambhir for one season, before assuming the role later on. Sehwag again handed over the captaincy last season. Mahela Jayawardene led the team to ninth and last in the points table last season. Sehwag is their leading run-scorer right from the first season. He has 2,174 runs at a staggering strike-rate of 160.32.
So why drop him? There are many reasons to this. Despite carrying Delhi at times in the past six seasons, Sehwag’s individual form has taken a massive hit. His poor form has seen him be pushed way down the pecking order for selection into the Indian team. Last season too, he did not light up a struggling team. Retaining players also cuts down the overall sum for a team in the auctions. So they can still get him back with their ‘Right to Match’ option. If they do want some of their own players back, this might be a cheaper option.
Either way, it is a bold decision. If they decide to do away with Sehwag, then they lose the face of the team, the inspiration, a great player. They also lose some of its fan base which would be based on player popularity. Mumbai Indians would also face such issues after Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement. But what they have done is that they have retained five players from their 2013 squad and kept some resemblance going forward. The fans can relate to that and still support the team, even without Tendulkar in the team.
Obviously, Mumbai are the champions and have world-class players to choose from. They actually left out Mitchell Johnson from the retentions. Delhi, on the other hand, finished last in 2013. They have always had fluctuating seasons, but the management saw it fit to release players completely. One would not know what their strategy is, until the auctions in February. The other two not retained also throws a few surprises.
Warner is one of the most lethal batsmen in world cricket. His form has also seen an upswing for Australia in the last few months. Then there is Pietersen. If included, it would have come with a bit extra burden on him. After England’s 0-5 whitewash in the Ashes 2013-14 series, Pietersen has come under fire as somewhat of a scapegoat, despite being their leading run-scorer. His frosty relationship with team director Andy Flower is also casting a shadow over his England career. could see also his England career end very soon.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has not warmed up to the idea of the IPL and has had many issues regarding this with Pietersen. If the batsman is to play in the full 2014 season, something he always wanted to do, then he could find himself dropped from the England squad. This is all a possibility and it may not go down like this, but relations between these parties may not be very cordial after this.
But not retaining Pietersen is a bold move for the team. Warner and Pietersen are world class players and to not retain anyone from their squad does ask more questions to be asked. Since Delhi have not made retentions, they can select three players from the ‘Right to Match’ option. If they select the three players mentioned above, there may not be a surprise. Other important players who would have been selected in the retentions, if utilised fully, could have been Jayawardene, MorneMorkel, Umesh Yadav, Andre Russell, Irfan Pathan and many more.
Whatever the reasons for not retaining any player from their squad, Delhi still face a tough challenge in IPL 2014.
(Shrikant Shankar is a writer/reporter at CricketCountry.com. Previously he has done audio commentary for various matches involving India, Indian Premier League and Champions League Twenty20 for ESPNSTAR.com. You can follow him on Twitter @Shrikant_23)
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