Imagine a situation where one has literally everything to thwart whatever potential obstacles might be hurled at them. Resources and the requisite wherewithal to tackle prospective problems fosters a sense of security – a sense of security that even if things take a turn for the worse, they will be able to come up trumps.
In a majority of cases, this particular trait acts as the ideal launchpad for bigger and better things. Not just because of the confidence that accrues but also because others are worried about the ceiling that can be achieved.
From the Delhi Capitals’ point of view, though, this characteristic has perhaps proved to be more of a bane than a boon, meaning that with another season of the Indian Premier League done and dusted, they are left ruing what could’ve been.
For large swathes of the 2021 edition, the Delhi Capitals were the team to beat, make no mistake about it. However, as the competition entered its home stretch, they found ways to lose games – something that was in stark contrast to the early and middle stages, where they, despite not being at their best, evolved methods to outwit the opposition.
Delhi Capitals are yet to win the IPL
In fact, that is exactly where the paradox with this Delhi Capitals side lies, for they have been the only IPL team to have made the play-offs each time since 2019 but have also been the only outfit to have been dumped out twice in Qualifier 2. They have lost a final too, by the way, hinting that they haven’t always put their best foot forward in adverse knock-out circumstances.
The initial argument would be to suggest that this Delhi Capitals team is still young and with an equally greenhorn captain at the helm (ala Rishabh Pant), they will only be stronger courtesy of this experience.
Yet, on closer inspection, there are more than a few aspects the Delhi Capitals botched during the play-offs in 2021. More worryingly, a lot of those seemed quite unnecessary and seemed a direct result of the vast options they had at their disposal.
For much of IPL 2021’s second stanza, the Delhi Capitals have been hampered due to Marcus Stoinis’ injury. The Australian, when fully fit, can adroitly contribute as an all-rounder, lending balance and solidity to the Delhi Capitals outfit.
Despite his absence, the Delhi-based franchise could’ve used their resources a lot better. At times, they decided to play an extra bowler, just to give them an extra alternative and cover for Ravichandran Ashwin’s poor form.
With the Hulk-shaped void Stoinis left, though, they regularly deployed a lighter batting unit – something that came at the cost of batting freedom. To compound their woes, they chopped and changed their batting unit too often, meaning that none was able to get the kind of clarity that enables players to express themselves entirely.
Interestingly enough, Rishabh Pant, quite frequently, talked about how the Delhi Capitals wanted to follow the “process” and not worry about the results. The “process”, however, became complicated with each passing game and one feels that might not count for much now, considering the results have also gone haywire.
A perfect example of the lack of clarity or that of trying out too many things would be the game against the Chennai Super Kings. That evening, Prithvi Shaw was stroking the ball beautifully but had seen Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer perish to Josh Hazlewood.
Under ordinary circumstances, one would expect either of Pant or Shimron Hetmyer to walk into the battlefield. Instead, Axar Patel strode out. While Axar can be a handy batter in the lower order, the ploy to send him at No.4, just to ensure that Hetmyer and Pant can bat during the later stages of the innings, left a lot to be desired.
Axar scratched his way to an 11-ball 10 and departed when trying to break the shackles against Moeen Ali – shackles that had been self-imposed by the Delhi Capitals. In the end, one could even argue that that innings, especially in a game where 173 was hauled down, might’ve been the difference.
In their bowling innings too, there were a lot of calls that were questionable, to say the least. Tom Curran, despite all that he has done in franchise cricket, hasn’t always been reliable at the death. Yet, he was thrown to the wolf named MS Dhoni – that too at a time when the former Indian skipper had started regaining his mojo.
Tom Curran, by the way, has conceded 68 runs off 21 balls in the last over of an IPL fixture since the start of 2020. And, for a team that concentrates so much on match-ups, it is quite paradoxical that they ended up making this decision.
Remember, Kagiso Rabada, who had taken a bit of tap against CSK but has still been the Delhi Capitals’ go-to bowler, didn’t bowl either of the last two overs. Instead, Avesh Khan, who was trying to vanquish the KS Bharat-shaped ghosts, was entrusted with the penultimate over.
A match later, the Delhi Capitals decided to promote Stoinis to No.3 – a decision that would’ve seemed inspired had the Australian been playing cricket consistently. However, with him trying to shed off ring-rust and then hoping to impose himself, the Delhi Capitals found themselves stuck in the quicksand.
Perhaps they were trying to maintain a left-right combination. Even if that was the case, they might have been better served sending Shreyas – a cricketer who has been in sync with the game and is best utilized when he faces as many deliveries as possible.
On the bowling front as well, there were too many changes during the Power Play. While shuffling bowlers keeps the batters guessing, it is probably not the best idea when the Delhi Capitals were trying to break open the game and bowlers are trying to generate a head of steam.
Towards the end of the fixture, the Delhi Capitals made an almighty fist of it – most of which was down to their bowlers’ brilliance and the Kolkata Knight Riders’ capitulation tendencies. The horse, though, had bolted by then.
Even before the play-offs, the Delhi Capitals had developed the habit of fidgeting too much. Remember the encounter against the Mumbai Indians when Axar Patel walked in ahead of Shimron Hetmyer? DC won that game, with Hetmyer playing the knock that became the decisive tilting scale.
That, though, was in the league phase, meaning that the fear of failure wasn’t as high as it is during a knock-out fixture. In the play-offs, there are hardly any second chances – something that amplifies the pressure, especially if there is a slight lack of clarity.
Moreover, when push comes to shove, it is imperative that teams bank on a template that has been identified earlier and has served them well rather than hoping to stumble upon one when a billion eyeballs are trained on them.
On paper, the Delhi Capitals are still one of the most-well rounded outfits in the IPL and they have the ability to hurtle over whatever hurdles are placed in front of them. The mere fact that they are able to fiddle so much is a testament to their bench strength and their quality. Ishant Sharma, Sam Billings and Umesh Yadav couldn’t even buy a game, for goodness’ sake.
But that, as the Delhi Capitals have found out lately, also comes with a cost – a cost of simply having too many options up your sleeve. If recent history is used as a yardstick, the Delhi Capitals have perhaps shown that too many ideas spoil the IPL broth.
So much so that one begins wondering how many options are indeed too many, even for the Delhi Capitals.