Delhi Daredevils started the Indian Premier League in 2008 with a bang. They were the team which was the most consistent side in the first two seasons, reaching back-to-back semi-finals. Though they failed to win the title, they were by far the best team in the competition.
They had a top class batting line-up. Virender Sehwag, Davis Warner, Tilakratne Dilshan, Gautam Gambhir - all of them were big hitters and dream T20 players.
In the first edition, Delhi had a bowling unit which can be described as world class. Mohd Asif and Glen MacGrath used to start the proceedings for them. Together, they formed a deadly opening bowling combination.
Asif was in top form and wily MacGrath did not lose the shine even after his retirement. On top of it, both the bowlers were known for their impeccable line and length and they were very difficult to be hit out, a perfect recipe for Twenty20 games. Then came Australian Dirk Nannes in the second season. He imp
ressed one and all with his pace and swing and kept MacGrath out of the side during the entire IPL 2.
Their spin department was as rich as their pace bowling unit. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra emerged as their frontline spinner in the first two seasons. He picked up wickets whenever his team wanted them. And then there was the astute former Kiwi skipper left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori.
It was no surprise that Delhi rocked the first two seasons and looked like one of the teams set to dominate the cash-rich league in days to come.
But everything changed once the auction took place before the fourth edition. The Delhi team fared miserably. There was no plan, no homework. Nobody knows why they refused to retain their key players, who had assumed important roles in the first three seasons. Gambhir, Dilshan, Vettori were snapped up immediately by the other franchises. Instead, Delhi packed their squad with some utility cricketers like Irfan Pathan, Andrew MacDonald and James Hopes. They had no batsman to look for beyond Sehwag and Warner.
The result: they struggled to win matches and completed the IPL 4 with a wooden spoon.
The GMR-owned franchise has had the reputation of letting the players and team management to do their jobs without any meddling. Unlike other franchises like KKR, RCB, Mumbai Indian, Daredevils’ owner were known to be least interfering.
After the horrible performance of the last year, the Delhi team too pulled up its socks. They brought back TA Sekar, who was a vital cog in their team’s success in the first two seasons. He was made mentor of the side. Sekar, in turn, made sure that Delhi once again forms one of the best units in the IPL.
Under Sekar they went all out in this year’s auction bagging big batting names like Kevin Pietersen, Mahela Jayawardene, Ross Taylor and West Indian all-rounder Andre Russell. They have also brought upcoming talents like big-hitting Australian Glen Maxwell and New Zealand allrounder Doug Bracewell.
The batting line-up, which looked terribly fragile during the last season, with the inclusion of Pietersen, Jayawardene and Taylor is now looking good.
On the bowling front, Delhi have the new Indian pace sensations-Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron. Both can generate pace and bounce to trouble the oppositions in any condition. If South African paceman Morne Morkel, who is currently nursing an injury, joins them, their pace attack can be one of the best too. Apart from that, Irfan Pathan, New Zealand all-rounder Doug Bracewell and veteran Ajit Agarakar are also there to support them.
The only concern is their spin bowling line-up. It may trouble them considering the fact that they have spin-friendly conditions at their home ground Feroz Shah Kotla. They have not got a single experienced tweaker in their ranks. South African Van der Merwe is the only man to look up to. Little known Shahbaz Nadeem and Pawan Negi are the other spinners in the side.
There is hardly any team in the IPL which can be termed as a perfect side. Every unit has its weaknesses. Delhi can compensate their spin-woe and win this year’s IPL if they bat well and their fiery pacers bowl with venom.
(The views expressed by the author are personal)