IPL 2019: Hold your heads high Delhi Capitals, this is just the beginning
From wooden spoon holders in IPL 2018 to finishing just two steps behind the trophy in IPL 2019, the Delhi-based franchise has come a long way. The youngest side of the season in terms of average age of players, Delhi had a terrific run this year, only to be halted by the Chennai Super Kings in Qualifier 2.
There were three major pre-season events that set the tone for their superb run this year: trading in Shikhar Dhawan from Sunrisers Hyderabad, roping in Sourav Ganguly for the coaching duties, and changing the name from Daredevils to Capitals.
Dhawan was traded in for Vijay Shankar, Shahbaaz Nadeem and Abhishek Sharma. The move was questioned by many in the beginning, but the management knew the importance of having someone experienced at the top.
As things turned out, Dhawan finished third on the Orange Cap list for the season (before the finals) with 521 runs. He also had the distinction of scoring the most runs in the powerplays this season.
The inclusion of Ganguly in the coaching staff did wonders for the side. The Ponting-Ganguly combination made the young side strategically at par with the other teams. And the change in name did bring them good fortune as well.
What separated this year's campaign from that of 2018 was the youngsters' ability to learn from their mistakes.
After a high-flying start, beating Mumbai convincingly at Wankhede, Delhi were haunted by familiar predicaments. They lost matches from winning positions, threw away chances and failed to dominate from positions of strength. With just two wins from five games, the campaign more or less seemed to be going the same way as 2018.
Then came the turnaround, something that that could set the tone for years to come for the young side. Eight wins came from the next 10 games, and they set a date with the Chennai Super Kings for Qualifier 2. Those eight wins were banked on a bulk of away wins, multiple match-winners turning up every game and rectifying a number of mistakes of the past.
Dhawan started to bat with more authority, Shreyas Iyer showed the composure needed from him as the skipper, Kagiso Rabada picked wickets for fun and Rishabh Pant brought in his power hitting.
The skipper learned the necessity to stay till the end and finish games, and executed that perfectly on a couple of occasions. Rabada is still the leading wicket-taker of the season with 25 wickets. He was equally good at the start, in the middle as well as the death.
Pant was guilty of throwing his wicket away at crucial junctures which cost them a couple of games. But as the season progressed he played with more maturity; the knock at Jaipur against Rajasthan was a fine example, where he stayed on till the end and finished the game. Pant was not as good as last year, but he did play a number of match-winning knocks.
Ishant Sharma, the unsung hero of the season, provided them several perfect starts with the ball. His tight bowling made it easy for the other bowlers to get wickets. The injury to Rabada did hurt them ultimately, but it was the experience of Ishant which negated his absence to some extent.
Prithvi Shaw, someone they persisted with despite a string of low scores, did repay the faith shown in him with a blazing fifty in the Eliminator. Sandeep Lamichhane, Axar Patel and Amit Mishra all played key roles at some point or the other.
Overall, the team was not dependent on any single individual unlike last season, when Pant was the lone fighter. That was probably the biggest turnaround for the Delhi Capitals.
Also, there was a proper blend of youth and experience this year. Though the overseas players barring Rabada could have done more, the part played by the Indian stars was huge.
What's in store for the future?
The Delhi Capitals are a side with a lot of promise. After a disappointing season last seasons, where they repeatedly lost close games, they bounced back this year to finish third.
The perfect mix of youth and experience held them in good stead. Moreover, by IPL 2020, the youngsters will be one year more seasoned. The only way is up for them, and this is just the beginning.
Yes, they faltered in Qualifier 2. But that was against a side that plays the knockouts every single year; the lessons that the DC players would have taken from the loss will greatly help them in the future.
The major problem for the team this year was their home turf. A side suited to thrive on true wickets did find it difficult at the slow and low Kotla. The curators need to take care of this aspect next year and give Delhi the home advantage which very other team has in the IPL.
As Delhi bow out of the tournament just a step away from the finals, it is time we give them the respect they deserve - for the sheer fearlessness they showed on the field, for the youthful exuberance they brought with them, and for the way they rose after looking down and out. Hold you heads high Delhi Capitals, this is the beginning of a wonderful journey.