To paraphrase Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, when Delhi Daredevils were good, they were very, very good, and when they were bad, they were horrid. They were the team that topped 200 twice. They were also the team that was bowled out below 70 twice. Two rollicking victories early on allowed fans, and neutrals, to believe that this could be their season, but five losses in a row in the middle period, ultimately, brought them to their knees. Inconsistency and inexperience in the batting, along with head-scratching tactics, contributed to Delhi ending in sixth position for a second consecutive year.
Days before Delhi’s opening game, 19-year-old Rishabh Pant received the news that his father had passed away. After performing his last rites in Hardiwar, he showed tremendous resolve to rejoin the team in Bangalore, citing “his father would have asked for no less”. Pant went on to make 57 off 36 balls with three fours and four sixes even as wickets around him tumbled. In the end, though, what the game would be remembered for was not the defeat, but the ferocity with which Pant hit the ball, underlining what a special talent he is, and his character, to put team above personal tragedy.
What did not work for the team
Where Delhi lost the plot was in the back room. They were hampered by the unavailability from the start of Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy, yes, but they dragged their feet in naming a replacement for the former before picking Marlon Samuels. Duminy’s replacement was even more baffling — Ben Hilfenhaus, 34, and despite being spoilt for choice in the bowling department. He never got a game either. Not opening with Shreyas Iyer, batting Pant too low, and sidelining Shahbaz Nadeem, who had the best economy rate in the side at 6.67, after three good outings was indicative of some muddled thinking.
Twelve wickets in nine games at an economy rate of 7.74 was impressive, but Chris Morris was ferocious with bat too, with a strike-rate of 168.09, the second-best in the team after Pant. His unbeaten 38 off nine balls against Rising Pune Supergiant was a game-changer, but he might’ve done better than his 154-run tally suggests had his batting order in the tournament not read 6, 6, 7, 7, 7, 8, 5, 7, 6. In fact, one game after his Pune blitz, Angelo Mathews was sent in ahead of Morris when the required run-rate was above 12. Morris did his best despite drawing the short straw.
Karun Nair was stubbornly persisted with, playing all 14 games, but his numbers weren’t pretty: 281 runs at 21.61 with a strike-rate of 124.33, batting in the top order. Not only did he escape the axe, but he was also temporarily made captain when Zaheer Khan was unfit because he was Delhi’s choice of vice-captain ahead of the tournament. His 33 against Sunrisers Hyderabad was his first 30+ score in 15 innings since that triple-century in the Chennai Test against England last year, and his highest score (64) came after Delhi were eliminated. Nair said the support from the franchise was great. Unfortunately, they couldn’t say the same about him.
Highest run-getter: Sanju Samson: 386 runs in 14 matches. Strike-rate: 141.39.
Highest wicket-taker: Pat Cummins: 15 wickets in 12 matches. Economy: 8.07.