Perennial wooden spoon holders Delhi Capitals have followed up their IPL 2019 plaudits with another spectacular showing in the group stages, looking all but certain to qualify for their second successive playoffs. This shows the spectators of the greatest T20 tournament in the world two things; that last year was not a fluke, and maybe a change in the name really does bring change in fortunes.
Perhaps the best news for Delhi Capitals is they have not been carried by any one player in particular. Different players have raised their hands at different points of time to deliver the goods for the Delhi Capitals. But with 7 different Player of the Match winners in their seven wins, who has been the Delhi Capitals' MVP this year?
Kagiso Rabada: Almost, but not quite there
The easiest choice would have been Kagiso Rabada. The Purple Cap holder by some distance, the South African quick has been sensational for the Delhi-based franchise, picking wickets for fun whilst simultaneously instilling fear in every other team.
Rabada was also the Super Over hero for the Delhi Capitals in their opening fixture against Kings XI Punjab, a game that no doubt instilled the franchise with a lot of confidence for the remainder of the tournament.
However, a few factors prevent him from being the obvious choice. Firstly, a large proportion of his wickets have come against the lower middle and lower order (10 of his 21 dismissals have been of batsmen batting below No. 5, including four dismissals of Nos. 8-11).
Secondly, the Delhi Capitals bowling unit, on the whole, has been successful because the bowlers have hunted as a pack. The likes of Nortje, Axar, and Ashwin have been extremely effective up top, causing Rabada to be able to finish off the tail effectively in the death.
Shikhar Dhawan: The real MVP for the Delhi Capitals
There have been others who have put their hands up at vital junctures: Prithvi Shaw with 3 incredible innings, Rishabh Pant with his consistent 30s, Shreyas Iyer playing the anchors role to perfection, and Marcus Stoinis with some jaw-dropping cameos. However, none have been as effective as Shikhar Dhawan.
Having started the tournament slowly, Shikhar Dhawan looked like he was struggling for form. After an unfortunate run-out in the first game, Dhawan was trying to anchor the innings while Shaw went for a flourish, only to be dismissed after some slow 20s and 30s.
With talks of him being replaced with Rahane beginning to surface among fans, the 34-year-old Southpaw began to show why he is one of the greatest openers of the limited-overs game.
Delhi, flying high after their first 7 games, were dealt a major blow. A team that had already lost Amit Mishra and Ishant Sharma to injury, now had to go a week without the services of wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant. And due to his replacement keeper being a foreigner, Shimron Hetmyer had to be out of the first XI as well.
Suddenly, a well-oiled Delhi batting unit started to look weak. Add to that Prithvi Shaw and Ajinkya Rahane's ineffectiveness with the bat, and Delhi looked like they were under some serious pressure.
With all of this going on, Dhawan completely transformed the way he batted when Delhi Capitals looked their most vulnerable. He started accelerating early in his innings with a consistent strike rate of 170, a refreshing change from his previous innings.
While he is not the biggest six-hitter, he started finding gaps as easily as most of us find the appetite for dessert after a heavy meal. And he turned the dial to 11 in his last two fixtures.
Chasing a tricky 180, Shikhar Dhawan scored his maiden IPL century to guide the Delhi Capitals to a 5-wicket victory, displaying a batting masterclass in the process. With 14 fours and a solitary six, Dhawan showed the world why it isn't necessary to be someone who can bludgeon the ball to score quick runs. He followed that up with a historic unbeaten 106, becoming the first player in the history of the IPL to score back-to-back tons.
While his Delhi Capitals teammates perished around him, Dhawan showed the ease of a champion, as he carried his bat for the second straight inning to guide his team to an ultimately losing total of 164. Such was the impact of his innings that he won the man of the match despite his team being on the losing side.
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With the teams approaching the business end of the tournament, Dhawan seems to have found form at the right time, much to the delight of Delhi Capitals fans across the globe. And once he gets into such form, he rarely seems to drop off. Which is why he has been Delhi Capitals' MVP of the tournament so far.