IPL 2019: The phoenix that is Delhi Capitals
As the world recovers from a nail-biting, dramatic and thrilling grand finale, it's time to look back at the season gone by.
Another edition of the world's biggest franchise cricket tournament has been completed. Now, let's take a step back and look at the history of the tournament.
If you look closely, actually even if you don't look closely, you will notice that the Indian carnival of cricket once contained a peculiar team. This team was always filled with fabulous, multi-talented players, international stars, power-hitters, and excellent bowlers. They had it all. However, somehow, this team's stars always refused to align.
Inexplicably, they were unable to crack the so-called "winning formula" that other teams understood so easily. Yes, if you haven't guessed it already, I'm talking about the Delhi Daredevils.
The Double D's were perennial underachievers. All that promise, all that talent, went unfulfilled season after season.
In a bid to resurrect their fortunes, they roped in the legendary Ricky Ponting and the two-time-winning KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir to lead them in IPL 2018. They also roped in young stars Prithvi Shaw, Manjot Kalra, Abhishek Sharma, Avesh Khan and Sandeep Lamichhane.
They believed for sure that with such a versatile squad at their disposal, they could count on the experienced Gambhir to lead their troops to victory.Delhi Daredevils at IPL 2018
The hope that was crushed
What followed was a horror run. Delhi lost 5 out of the first 6 games. Halfway through the season, Gambhir stepped down as the Delhi Daredevils skipper. Any hopes that DD were harbouring of reaching the playoffs and winning their maiden title were crushed.
Delhi were hurting badly.
Shortly after Shreyas Iyer was named Gambhir's successor, the youngster stated in a press conference, "I'm really loving the responsibility they've put upon me and also the faith they've shown upon me. I love facing challenges and it's a great opportunity for me to prove myself and get the team to the highest level possible."
Iyer was handed the reigns of a wounded horse. Wounded yes, but not out of the race just yet.
Ponting stated in the same press conference, "It's my job, it's Gautam's job and it's all the players' job to make Shreyas's job as easy as possible on the field."
Surely, handing a 23-year old the mantle of captaincy, that too of a failing team, was an enormous gamble. But did that stop the Daredevils from backing their decision? Of course not, because that's what true Daredevils do.
Iyer's arrival as skipper didn't exactly save Delhi, but not much more could have been expected from the captain of a sinking ship. Iyer led his team as well as he could have, and refused to give up even when faced with inevitable loss.
Despite the fact that the Daredevils finished the tournament as the last ranked team, the incumbent Delhi captain garnered praise from all corners for his fearless captaincy in the face of adversity. IPL 2018 was done and dusted.
Dawn of a new era
Let's fast forward to December 2018. Right before the IPL 2019 auction was about to take place, a function was organized in Delhi by the team owners GMR Group and JSW Sports. In this function, something historic happened.
Delhi Daredevils was renamed as the Delhi Capitals and a new jersey, along with a new team kit, were unveiled. The old bruised and battered Delhi Daredevils had decided to start afresh.
As the team co-owner Kiran Kumar Grandhi said, "The new name symbolizes Delhi’s identity and just like the city, we are aiming to be the centre of all action going forward."
Delhi's team management made some wise moves during the following IPL auctions and put together a solid squad, with the perfect blend of experience and youth. With Ponting, Sourav Ganguly, and Mohammed Kaif at the helm, the Delhi Capitals collectively appeared as a formidable new unit.
However, among the public and fans, there was still a lingering uncertainty. Delhi had had formidable teams in the past as well, but it had never turned out well for them. What if this season was the same?
IPL 2019 - The trial by fire
Time waits for no man, or woman, and the 2019 edition finally arrived in March. In their first match of the season, Delhi's big guns fired.
On the back of Rishabh Pant's brutal 78* (27), Colin Ingram's 47 (32), and Shikhar Dhawan's 43 (36), the Capitals beat Mumbai Indians by 37 runs. They had come out in the new season and made a serious statement.
"This is New Delhi," they said. And they meant every word of it.
Match after match, Delhi showed why they weren't to be underestimated. This wasn't the old Daredevils, who had made a habit of losing. This was the new Delhi Capitals, emerging from the shadows into the spotlight.
Shreyas Iyer became the face of the reincarnated team, and he led his troops marvelously. When they were needed, each of the players in the XI fired - the batsmen as well as the bowlers..
Whether it was Dhawan and Shaw blasting their way in the powerplays to provide them a good start, the pace battery of Rabada and Ishant, the spin twins of Mishra and Lamichhane, the skipper Iyer anchoring the innings, or the fearsome Pant carting bowlers all over the ground, every man made his contribution to turn Delhi into a powerful unit.
Yes, when you have a team filled with youngsters, mistakes are bound to happen. And they did. Shaw, Pant, Lamichhane and Keemo Paul all made mistakes, but what mattered the most was what they learned from their blunders.
Delhi Capitals overcame their shortcomings, and marched on to the IPL playoffs. The morale of the team was high. The team atmosphere had become such that they were brimming with confidence and self-belief.
When they clashed against Sunrisers Hyderabad at Vizag, it was their young guns that won it for them. Led by Ishant Sharma's two-fer and Keemo Paul's three-fer, Delhi restricted the Sunrisers to 162. And what followed was a masterclass from Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant.
Delhi won the Eliminator despite a stumble towards the end. By winning a knockout game for the first time, the Capitals created history.
The Qualifier 2 against CSK wasn't as rosy. DC managed to put up a total of 147 on the board. Against a team like CSK, 147 wasn't enough, and their veteran openers Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson led the chase for them.
One thing was for sure though: the Capitals did not surrender. Despite their under-par total, they fought till the end and played like true sportsmen.
Delhi's IPL 2019 came to an end with that match. But what the team accomplished over the course of the tournament was nothing short of phenomenal.
The phoenix spreads its wings
What this Delhi Capitals side achieved over the course of one and a half months will be remembered for a long time. From finishing at the bottom of the points table to finishing as the 2nd runners-up, Delhi have proven that they are not the Delhi of old anymore.
This new group of men are fearless, hard-working and relish challenges. They have the self-belief to not only face these challenges, but to pass with flying colours. They have repaid the faith shown in them by their loyal fans.
This is the start of a new era for the Delhi franchise. From the ashes of Delhi Daredevils, a phoenix has risen. The phoenix spreads its wings and announces to the world, "I'm back".
That's right, this is New Delhi. Watch out. The phoenix has been reborn.