Team preview: Can Gambhir Ponting make Delhi a champion unit

Author : Wisden 5 Apr, 2018


Delhi Daredevils have been one of the most inconsistent franchises in the Indian Premier League. But in the 11th season of the lucrative tournament, the team based in the capital of the country will look to buck the trend under the watch of an assertive captain-coach pair in Gautam Gambhir and Ricky Ponting.

Gambhir is like Delhi’s prodigal son (except that it was the franchise that let go of him after the 2010 season). While he was by no stretch of imagination bad in his first stint with Delhi, once he went to Kolkata he only became better and even established strong captaincy credentials, leading the team to two titles in the seven seasons he was with them.

Similarly, Ponting has been part of two victorious IPL campaigns with Mumbai Indians. In 2013, he relinquished captaincy mid-way after poor performances but guided the Rohit Sharma-led team to the title. In 2017, he was head coach, when Mumbai claimed a record third title.

The duo is now faced with a challenge of lifting a team that has never made the finals, the only one among the eight present franchisees to hold the dubious distinction. They have star players in the ranks to make the transformation. Delhi had retained Chris Morris, Rishab Pant and Shreyas Iyer, and then picked up the likes of Glenn Maxwell, Trent Boult, Kagiso Rabada and Vijay Shankar in the auction, all of whom are capable of packing a serious punch in the shortest format.

Delhi have had good sides in the past, but with successful campaigners in Gambhir and Ponting at the helm, this might be the season they tap into their full potential.

STRENGTHS
Impact players, both batsmen and bowlers, are aplenty in this Delhi team. The likes of Rabada, Amit Mishra and Boult can change the complexion of a game with the ball. Iyer, Maxwell, Pant, Colin Munro and Jason Roy can take games by the scruff of the neck and create wonders with the willow. Morris offers those abilities to win games with his skill in both disciplines.

WEAKNESSES
Mohammed Shami hasn’t had the best of times recently. First he was embroiled in marital-controversy, and then suffered minor head injuries in a road accident. But reportedly he is back training with Delhi, and thankfully enough. He is one of only two players who have enjoyed prolonged international stints with team India as a regular, alongside Gambhir. Such experience puts them in a unique position of not only knowing Indian conditions intimately, but also having enhanced skills, honed against cream of players from around the world. The fact is that, despite the quality of overseas players in the ranks, the team needs to feature at least seven Indians and Delhi might find it difficult to assemble a quality playing XI in that regard, if the youngsters don’t click. Other than that, Delhi have to contend with a potential psychological barrier that may have been created from being the only side to never have reached the IPL final in 10 seasons.

PAST RECORD
As stated earlier, Delhi are the only team of the current eight yet to make it to the final of the IPL. In the inaugural two seasons they reached the semifinals, while also making the playoffs in 2012. But since then, Delhi have always ended the league stages in the bottom half of the rankings, if not last. In the previous two seasons in 2016 and 2017, they finished sixth.

2018 AUCTION ACTION
Delhi retained Iyer, Pant and Morris before the IPL auction. Left with two Right To Match cards, they utilised those to bring back Shami and Rabada for fairly reasonable prices. Maxwell was their most expensive buy in the auction itself. They made waves by picking Sandeep Lamichhane, the first Nepal player in the IPL, for his base price. Apart from Lamichhane, who is an Under-19 player, they also bought Prithvi Shaw and Manjot Kalra on account of their exploits at the 2018 U-19 World Cup. Shaw went for INR 1.2 crores, while Kalra was sold for his base price of INR 20 Lakhs.

YOUNG PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR

Shreyas Iyer: Iyer could well have fit this bill before the previous season and quite possibly will in lead up to the next season as well. There’s a thrill to watch him go about his game. Moreover, he has become closely associated with the franchise, especially after lighting up the stage early on in his debut season. Since then he has grown in stature, and is now finds himself in the India set up as well. His T20 numbers are pretty good, but not outstanding. The batsman will want to scale up in this season.

SQUAD:
Gautam Gambhir (capt), Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Chris Morris, Glenn Maxwell, Kagiso Rabada, Amit Mishra, Shahbaz Nadeem, Vijay Shankar, Rahul Tewatia, Mohammad Shami, Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Daniel Christian, Jason Roy, Naman Ojha, Prithvi Shaw, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Avesh Khan, Abhishek Sharma, Jayant Yadav, Harshal Patel, Manjot Kalra, Sandeep Lamichhane, Sayan Ghosh

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