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Cricket news - Delhi Capitals: A season full of hope and promise
Soon after the loss in the second Qualifier against Chennai Super Kings, Shreyas Iyer spoke about learning from the likes of MS Dhoni, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Two months as an IPL franchise captain can do that you - you mature fast. So instead of sulking about the mistakes made on the field, that cost them dear, the Delhi Capitals captain spoke about the positives from the season. Capitals walk away from IPL 2019 with a future full of hope and promise. It hasn't been an easy ride for them in the last seven years but the batch of 2019 showed they are more than capable of turning things around.
The combination of Iyer, with Ricky Ponting as coach, and Sourav Ganguly as mentor, served the Capitals well. While the coach was meticulous and laid out the plans, Iyer did exceptionally well to stick to them and trust the instincts of Ponting. "When he talks, there's no point talking after him. It's of no use. He's that good," Iyer went on to reveal after the season. The narrative around the campaign was about how Capitals are benefiting from the exuberance of youth. While it's true to an extent, the major performances came from the experienced folks - Shikhar Dhawan, Kagiso Rabada and Ishant Sharma. Capitals, for the most part of the league phase, looked set to finish in the top two. And then came the defeat in Chennai, which hurt their net run rate and pushed them to third spot. They, at times, failed to seize key moments and the performances this year should leave the players wiser.
Capitals had just two wins in their first five games - one of them a Super Over win. By the end of the league phase, they had rolled over nine sides to bag 18 points and became the second side to qualify. The resurgence shows the temperament of the side
What worked for them?
Dhawan ended as their highest-run getter, Rabada was their highest wicket-taker but most of the impact performances came from Pant. His numbers will show he got only three half-centuries but the crucial aspect, that's easy to miss, is that he struck them at a strike rate of 162.66 and then averaged slightly over 37 - better than any other batsmen in the side. Be it dismantling Mumbai Indians in Mumbai or playing second-fiddle to Dhawan in Kolkata as they completed a double of Kolkata Knight Riders to producing a masterclass in Jaipur to trounce Rajasthan Royals - he produced performances to leave the opposition demoralised. Even in the eliminator, when it seemed like the Sunrisers Hyderabad would just about edge past Capitals, Pant's assault left his side needed 5 off 8. One of the criticisms towards him, and a fair one, is that he lacks the ability to drive his side home. However, he did enough more often than not to ensure his side somehow crossed the line.
What pulled them back?
Lack of support from overseas batsmen
Shaw made runs and even though he was patchy, he did his job on his day. Dhawan (521), Iyer (463) and Pant (488) played their parts too. But the lack of support from Colin Ingram (184 runs from 12 games) and others meant they failed to make a formidable batting unit. Sherfane Rutherford was tried for seven games, Colin Munro for four but none of them were able to kick on and be the support the Indian batsmen needed. Ingram was a major disappointment in the season after being bought for Rs 6.40 crores. He averaged 18.40 and failed to score even a single half-century. Morris too failed to provide them with something substantial in the nine games he played.
What did they sorely miss?
The form of their spinners
Amit Mishra had 11 wickets from 11 games. Axar Patel had 10 from the 14 he played. And while their economy was highly impressive, Capitals needed more wickets from them. Capitals won four games at the Feroz Shah Kotla and lost four. They played on low, slow tracks with plenty of assistance for the spinners. They could have well made it their fortress had their spinner been in better form. To an extent, they also missed Rabada in the latter-half of the tournament. The pacer was ruled out with a back injury and that took the bite out of the bowling attack.
Signing of the season
Dhawan was traded from Sunrisers Hyderabad as Capitals let go Abhishek Sharma, Shahbaz Nadeem and Vijay Shankar. Dhawan's runs came at an average of close to 35 and a strike rate of 135. His three consecutive half-centuries against Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals and Royals Challengers Bangalore helped Capitals string in three consecutive wins and also surge ahead. He scored the tough runs, with three of his five half-centuries coming at the Kotla. As he suffered a dip in form in the second-half of the tournament, DC were dented as well. In the last four games, he had scores of 19, 16, 17 and 18 and two of those games resulted in losses.
What's on highlights reel?
Dhawan's knock in Kolkata, Pant's assault in Mumbai and in Jaipur, Iyer's half-century against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Delhi, but nothing comes close to Rabada's effort in the Super Over in Delhi against Kolkata Knight Riders. Rabada was up against Andre Russell, and the all-rounder had smashed the Capitals' bowlers all around the park earlier in the night. Rabada had just nine to defend. His first delivery was picked for a four and then kept firing yorkers with precision to seal the deal for his side. It was bowling at its finest and even the best finishers couldn't get hold of him.
On a scale of 1 to 10...
Auction and retention strategy - 6/10
Capitals bought nine players in the auction after releasing 10 players and retaining 14. Ankush Bains, B Ayyappa, Nathu Singh and Jalaj Saxena were never used. Capitals used the auction to fill gaps in the side and hence all-rounders like Rutherford, Axar and Keemo Paul were bought. They were forced to let go of Glenn Maxwell, Jason Roy and Liam Plunkett and would be disappointed with the returns from Ingram. The think-tank did well to back Ishant after his poor show in the last few seasons, and the pacer repaid the faith with performances.
Batting output - 7/10
Runs from the Indian batsmen held Capitals in good stead. And with age on their side, the think-tank will look to retain the core. Capitals lose batting points because of Ingram, Axar, Morris and Munro. They could do well to bring in a gun lower-order batsman for the next edition and that should take some pressure off Pant.
Bowling prowess - 7/10
Rabada and Ishant were the prime reason Capitals found themselves on the top of the table. Axar chipped in with wickets but the think-tank should have used Sandeep Lamichhane better as the tournament progressed. Harshal Patel, before his injury, and Avesh Khan were disappointing in the limited opportunities they got and were rightfully benched. They would have hoped for a lot more from Trent Boult but the left-arm pacer, for all his international performances, had a mediocre IPL record and failed to deliver in yet another season.
Overall performance - 8/10
Capitals played in the play-offs after a gap of seven years. They won their first-ever playoff game when they defeated SRH. This was a successful season for the Iyer-led side with plenty of positives.
Is 2019 an improvement on 2018?
A resounding yes. They were at the bottom of the table last year and finished third this season. That's a massive jump and shows the background work paid off.
What next then?
Capitals are more aware of what needs fixing. Shaw, Iyer, Pant promise a lot and so does Rabada and Ishant. A good Indian spinner, a lower-order finisher is what they need. But they don't need to fix a lot of worry lines. From bagging a wooden spoon last year to trouncing established sides this season, Capitals are on their way to forming a formidable outfit. They will return next season with more experience knowing how to deal with pressure situations.
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