It is a side that is known for dominating for a major part of the tournament, only to fumble at the most critical juncture. With a phenomenal blend of attacking batsmen and dangerous bowlers, Delhi Daredevils are the side to beat in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2013. The ghosts of their past, however, loom large as they head into another season with an eye on the title.
Would 2013 be the year the Daredevils break the shackles and rewrite history?
In the lead-up to the IPL 6, Delhi have had to deal with the unavailability of Kevin Pietersen. The English batsmen will miss this season due to an injury and that leaves Delhi a touch poorer in their batting. The other significant change in their line-up is the absence of Ross Taylor — who has been transferred to the Pune Warriors India. However, that may well simplify selection matters.
With the limit on the number of foreign players in the eleven, Daredevils had a challenge in selecting from Mahela Jayawardene, Taylor, David Warner, Andre Russell, Kevin Pietersen and Morne Morkel. They had to pick the four with a well-thought out approach and that would in turn leave a genuine match-winner out. Pietersen’s presence would have certainly added punch to the batting, but it was sensible to let Taylor go. Even then, Delhi continues to hold the aces and have enough artillery to field a formidable side.
Virender Sehwag is a crucial man upfront. He would be itching to prove a point. He has lost his place in the Indian set-up and will be looking forward to the IPL season ahead to regain his Midas touch. In tandem with Warner, he would form a belligerent opening partnership that can frighten any opposition. When they get going, it’s mayhem from both ends.
In the middle-order, they have the calming influence of Jayawardene, who continues to show that one can succeed in T20 cricket with a classical approach. He plays the anchor and can also move in the order, as per the situation.
Unmukt Chand’s stocks have risen since the last season and would be the youngster to watch out for this season. The others such as Naman Ojha, Venugopal Rao and Yogesh Nagar would complete the line-up. The big question before Delhi is: Who would they play in place of Pietersen? Jesse Ryder is one option as he can be a hard-hitter at the top to aid Sehwag and Warner. But, they can also play Johan Botha, Jeevan Mendis or Roelof van der Merwe as a spinning all-rounder. Russell too has a good case for a spot with his fast bowling and hard-hitting batting.
The bowling would be dependent on Morkel to work his magic. The tall seamer was a handful last year and stunned batsmen with a few lethal toe crushers. They have a host of Indian pacers such as Ajit Agarkar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, Ashish Nehra and Irfan Pathan — all of whom are dangerous on their day, but might tend to concede runs. Nevertheless, the numerous Indian seamers give them options to strengthen the other departments with foreign players.
While Delhi would bank on their seamers, the young spinners in their side can deliver impressive performances. The two left arm orthodox bowlers — Shahbaz Nadeem and Pawan Negi — can restrict the flow of runs and also dent the opposition with wickets. Nadeem in particular was impressive as he exhibited guile and fearlessness in the T20 format.
The IPL is a dynamic tournament where players move from one franchise to another. Thus, psychological barriers shouldn’t form as such as the personnel keep changing. However, there seems to be a curse hovering over Delhi’s head as they haven’t won a knock-out game so far. In 2008 and 2009, they lost in the semi-finals after dominating the league stages. During the last season, they astonishingly lost in the play-offs. That trend trickled into their Champions League T20 (CLT20) 2012 campaign as they faltered in the semi-final.
There is a monkey on Delhi’s back and here is another opportunity to push it off.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and an analyst, anchor and voice-over artist for the site’s YouTube Channel. He shot to fame by spotting a wrong replay during IPL4 which resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. His insights on the game have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. He has also participated on live TV talk-shows on cricket. Nishad can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nishad_44)