Jayawardene: Daredevils’ pace line-up looks a little weak
Zaheer Khan (captain), Quinton de Kock , Shreyas Iyer, Mayank Agarwal, Sanju Samson, JP Duminy, Karun Nair, Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Morris, Albie Morkel, Pawan Negi, Amit Mishra, Khaleel Ahmed, Sam Billings, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Akhil Herwadkar, Imran Tahir, Mahipal Lomror, Chama Milind, Mohammad Shami, Shahbaz Nadeem, Rishabh Pant, Joel Paris, Pratyush Singh, Pawan Suyal, Saurabh Tiwary, Jayant Yadav
After managing only single-digit points in the preceding two years, Delhi Daredevils finished with 11 points, but still found themselves second last in the standings. Their campaign was a zig-zag pattern of wins and losses, and consequently never found any momentum. Despite their inconsistency, they cobbled up five wins, only two fewer than the third-placed team, in what was one of Daredevils’ better seasons in recent memory.
Think of any top IPL franchise and you instantly have a spectacular reel of associative images unspooling in your mind. But think Delhi Daredevils and you struggle to zoom in on any iconic player or memorable match-play that you can identify with the team. Unfortunately for Daredevils, their most enduring identity has been the lack of one. Year after year they have modified teams and team kits; even their theme song is beyond recognition. Arbitrary selection calls, muddled auction strategy and unstable leadership – they have had as many as five different full-time captains since 2008 – have hurt the franchise. To call them underachievers would be to miss the point, for expectations from them have diminished considerably over the last three years. So what have they done to get things back on track?
Daredevils started afresh once again by removing Gary Kirsten as head coach and releasing 11 players. They then took what seemed like bizarre decisions at the auction table, steadfastly ignoring the big names and splurging money on relatively less-heralded players like Pawan Negi (INR 8.5 crore), Sanju Samson (4.2 crore) and Karun Nair (4 crore). Daredevils defended the move by calling it a conscious, “strategic shift” towards youngsters, who they felt were hungrier than established stars.
Their biggest coup, however, was the signing of a stellar backroom crew. That Daredevils’ squad appears to be modelled on the Rajasthan Royals template – Chris Morris, Samson and Nair are direct imports, in fact – is no coincidence. With Rahul Dravid as mentor, Paddy Upton (head coach) and Zubin Bharucha (technical director) – all formerly with Royals – coming on board, Royals’ strategy of research-backed acquisition of young, lesser-known talent has been replicated. Dravid’s successful coaching stints with India A and India U-19 has also helped him track the progress of many promising youngsters, and three members of the side that made the final of the Under-19 World Cup – Rishabh Pant (1.9 crore), Mahipal Lomror and Khaleel Ahmed – duly figure in the Daredevils roster.
Delhi’s squad is filled with local names, perhaps none bigger than Shreyas Iyer © BCCI
Daredevils were among the more formidable sides in the first few years of the IPL, even making the semi-finals in the first two editions, before their performances began to taper off. They last qualified for the knockouts in 2012, so finishing in the top four will be their priority before gunning for gold. How Daredevils ensure consistency and stability in selection while managing a large squad of 27 players will be critical to their success.
The go-to men
In Zaheer Khan, Daredevils have a captain who successfully mentored bowling groups during his 14-year career as India’s strike bowler. As assured as his expertise is in formulating bowling plans and setting fields, the main challenge for Zaheer, 37, would be to operate at optimum levels, both as bowler and captain, for a month and a half.
While JP Duminy‘s experience in the middle order will be invaluable, Daredevils will look to Shreyas Iyer, who triggered the team’s youth-first push in the first place, Sanju Samson, and the in-form Quinton de Kock to set the game up at the top of the order.
Having made five of the 13 most expensive purchases at the auction, Daredevils have not really got too many players on the cheap. However, in retrospect, they might have got themselves a good deal by acquiring the services of Carlos Brathwaite for INR 4.2 crore. Who knows what bids he would have attracted had the auction happened after his six-hitting fest in the World T20 final?
Daredevils have all their players available for the duration of the tournament. There are no known injuries at the moment.
Rahul Dravid (mentor), Paddy Upton (head coach), Zubin Bharucha (technical director), Sridharan Sriram and Praveen Amre (batting coaches)
“We wanted young, fearless cricketers who we could work on. We have got Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant, and it’s an advantage that they have all worked with Rahul Dravid, who knows the Indian boys very well. We are looking forward to changing the fortunes of Delhi with the help of the new coaching staff and some talented youngsters.”
TA Sekar, director, GMR Sports, explains why Daredevils plumped for young Indian talent ahead of seasoned superstars.
Arun Venugopal is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo. @scarletrun
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo