In Focus: Delhi Capitals

The only current team to have never reached the final of an Indian Premier League (IPL) season and a franchise that is often a favourite to miss the playoffs. When you talk about Delhi Capitals (DC), you talk about their problems in taming the playoff blues. You also talk about a club stuttering through the years to find their gears and about a club that has a strong Indian core but has still struggled to lift the doom.

Welcome to the hustling, bustling city of Delhi – the capital of India. Although small in area and dense in population, the city boasts of great cricket pedigree. The excitement is no less emphasized by the support that the DC franchise receives every year. A journey that goes beyond success had its roots in the cricket-frenzy streets of Delhi.

Where it all started for the Delhi Capitals

When the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the start of franchise-style T20 league IPL, a Delhi-based team was inevitable. Then known as the Delhi Daredevils, the franchise was bought for a princely amount of $84 million. It was late in 2018 that the team underwent a change of name and change of dynamics – more on that later.

The inaugural season saw the Delhi Daredevils enjoy a great start to their IPL journey. Although never managing to run away from their opponents, the Daredevils did just enough to finish fourth and reach the playoffs. However, that was the best their journey could take them, as they lost in the semi-finals. Local boys Gautam Gambhir (534 runs, SR 140.89) and Virender Sehwag (406 runs, SR 184.54) continued their synchronous duet to keep the Daredevils in the hunt. However, the ageing Glenn McGrath (12 wickets, ER 6.61) didn’t influence the team’s fortunes, as expected.

The 2009 season in South Africa was a turning point for the Daredevils. The Gambhir-led side dominated the group phase and finished on top of the standings. This was the season that marked the emergence of AB de Villiers (465 runs, Avg. 51.66, SR 130.98) on the IPL stage. He was one of the only two centurions of the edition, but all his prowess couldn’t lift the Daredevils beyond the semis. For the second time running, they were caught short in the final-four stage. The club was happy to have found out a winning formula, though, and the hopes were high of a repeat.

However, their hopes ended up vanishing in thin air sooner than later. The 2010 edition saw them finish outside the top-four for the first time, before a calamitous 2011 season. The Delhi Daredevils finished tenth out of ten franchises in an extended 2011 edition, which was the nadir until that stage.

Partial Revival

The Daredevils were shocked with their last-place finish and made wholesale changes to the team and coaching staff. Mahela Jayawardene, Kevin Pietersen, Andre Russell, and Ross Taylor were all added to the team – a cricketing gamble which paid off as each player went on to make handsome contribution to the season. Eric Simons became the head coach, while T.A. Sekhar became the franchise mentor. All that paid dividends, as the Daredevils went on to win 11 of 16 games in the league phase to top the table. However, it lost both the playoff matches to finish third and out of the reckoning. Sehwag (495 runs, SR 161.23) led from the front with the bat, while Pietersen (305 runs, SR 147.34) made his impact known in just the eight matches he played.

Even though Sehwag stepped down from the captaincy right after the IPL season, there was an instant replacement in Mahela Jayawardene. The Sri Lankan astute captain was expected to continue the revival and take the club to new heights. Little did anyone know what was in store for them!

Barren Period

The playoff finish in 2012 was the start of a barren period for the Daredevils. The next six seasons (2013 to 2018) seldom saw the Daredevils trouble the bookmakers and subsequently fight for the wooden spoon regularly. In three of those six editions, the Daredevils were the team to finish at the bottom. On one other occasion, they finished seventh, while finishing sixth in the remaining two seasons.

The changes in the team squad and the management didn’t help them arrest the slide. In December 2018, the team even went on to change their name to the “Delhi Capitals”. The idea was to herald a new beginning and to quote the co-owner of the franchise – “The new name symbolizes Delhi’s identity and just like the city, we are aiming to be the centre of all action going forward.”

Change of fortunes

Sourav Ganguly was brought in as an advisor and Ricky Ponting was made the coach ahead of the 2019 IPL season. The young Indian batsman Shreyas Iyer was the captain and that gave wheels to the franchise. They got a new direction and for the first time since 2012, the Delhi Capitals qualified for the playoffs. Although they busted their playoff jinx by winning the eliminator, they couldn’t get past the Chennai Super Kings in the second qualifier.

That said, finishing third was a creditable result for the young side. Shikhar Dhawan (521 runs, SR 135.67) was exceptional with his consistency, while Rishabh Pant (488 runs, SR 162.66) and Shreyas Iyer (463 runs, SR 119.94) showed signs of maturing under the guidance of Ponting.

New direction for the Delhi Capitals

The player auction ahead of the 2020 season showed the way Delhi Capitals want to take the club. Signings like Jason Roy, Chris Woakes, Alex Carey, Shimron Hetmyer, and Marcus Stoinis indicated that they still want to play the flamboyant game.

Retaining Iyer, Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Dhawan, and Ishant Sharma has helped them maintain their strong Indian core. Furthermore, they have added the versatile and proven Ravichandran Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane, and the young leggie Mayank Markande to their ranks.

All in all, the future looks bright for the Capitals. Will they be able to break their playoff hoodoo and reach the final? Tough to predict at the moment, but the strong Indian roots in the squad suggest they should be a good pick to make the playoffs.

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