Inclusion of Jayawardene, Pietersen, Taylor and Russell make Delhi dangerous

Mahela Jayawardena (left) and Kevin Pietersen © Getty Images

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

From the dominant table-topping performance in 2009 to the ignominy of a last place finish in 2011, Delhi’s journey in the Indian Premier League has been intriguing. For the first three seasons, they had a strong side with the right combination of power hitters and effective bowlers. The team that represented Delhi during the fourth season was weak and looked completely out of depth. However, their new recruits promise to change their fortunes and possible touch previously un-scaled heights.

 

Delhi’s squad for season four was astonishing to say the least. In a competition where teams field numerous international stars in a line-up,Delhi’s roster resembled a bare cupboard with only Virender Sehwag and David Warner being the notable names. There were others such as James Hopes, Irfan Pathan, Roeluf van der Merwe and Mathew Wade to name a few, but Delhi lacked the strength and the overall finish. Some people may argue that one doesn’t need too many big players; Rajasthan Royals’ triumphant 2008 campaign being the case in point. Nevertheless, miracles don’t happen every day.

 

The inclusion of Mahela Jayawardene, Kevin Pietersen, Andre Russell and Ross Taylor, Delhi has added punch into their line-up. It looks a dangerous unit with good depth. Jayawardene is probably their smartest buy as he can anchor the innings and play the big shots without giving one the impression that runs are being scored at a fantastic rate. Pietersen and Taylor can bludgeon any attack on their day and replicate Sehwag and Warner’s feats at the top.

 

Delhi have a few player availability issues ahead of the tournament. Warner would be in the West Indies playing Tests for Australia until the end of April. Till then, Delhi may be able to play Jayawardene, Pietersen and Taylor. However, Jayawardene and Pietersen are set to miss the initial games as Sri Lanka and England are slated to play a Test. As Sehwag confirmed, Taylor would be available only after Delhi’s third game owing to his latest injury. Till Delhi do not have their full squad, Russell should be a part of the eleven unless he is selected for the Tests against Australia. Once they return, it would be a tricky situation for Sehwag and the think-tank.

 

Morne Morkel would spearhead the attack that has a number of Indian pacers. Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar, Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron and Avishkar Salvi give Delhi numerous options in the pace department. Pathan’s duties wouldn’t be restricted with the ball as he would be expected to score a few runs. Yadav and Aaron’s progress would be watched closely as they representIndia’s hopes of possessing genuine quicks. Aaron is still recuperating from an injury and is likely to be a part of the IPL only during the latter stages.

 

The lack of a quality spinner may hurt Delhi. Van der Merwe is a useful left-arm spinner, but with the other big international names, it would be difficult for him to break into the first eleven. That would leave it to the part-timers – Venugopal Rao and Sehwag – to roll their arms over. An all pace attack would make it too one-dimensional and the opposing batsmen wouldn’t have too many problems adjusting. Taking the pace off the ball would be the key and part-timers may be effective at times. However, consistency cannot be expected of them.

 

Similar to the Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi have a problem zeroing in on their four foreign players. Jayawardene, Taylor, Pietersen and Warner would walk into any franchises’ eleven. If all of them play, the bowling would become weak as Morkel would have to be benched. That would push Delhi to field an all-Indian pace-attack; which isn’t the best ploy as most of them can be very expensive. Furthermore, they also have Doug Bracewell and van Der Merwe who would miss out due to the heavyweights. Till such time Delhi don’t have their full squad, these players may get to play. However, that team would be similar to the one that played last season and may lack the zing to win games.

 

Delhi’s Indian players have to rise to the occasion and make contributions. Rao was their second highest run-getter and should form the key in the middle. A more consistent performance by him would do well for the team. Players like Naman Ojha and Pathan have to be consistent as that would take the pressure off Sehwag. It would be a huge mistake to heavily depend on the international stars and the Indian players must use the stage to make an impression.

 

The biggest plus point for Delhi is that a lot of their players have grown over the last year in international cricket. Yadav and Aaron have been earmarked as India’s future pacers and have made their Test debuts. Warner’s transformation has been fantastic as the Test experience has done him a world of good. Mathew Wade has become Australia’s first choice wicket-keeper in the limited overs formats and is poised to don the gloves in Tests. Pathan is gradually regaining the magic of old and isn’t the uncertain player he was during the last season. These are promising signs for Delhi and they augur well for the season.

 

The first target for Delhi would be to get through to the knock-outs and for that they have to maintain consistency. Deccan Chargers’ victorious campaign of 2009 would inspire them to emulate the Hyderabad team’s feats. Deccan had finished at the bottom in the 2008 season and did remarkably well to clinch the title in 2009. A similar surge would gladden numerous cricket fans in the national capital.

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)