“If we can do it, wonderful. If we can’t do it, let’s fail in the most beautiful way.”
Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp has a thing with words. The impact of his statement reverberated highly among those who realized the task at hands for Liverpool. The side was about to take on Lionel Messi’s Barcelona, being 3-0 down in the first leg of the Champions League.
In a comeback which will be remembered for ages, Liverpool scored four and kept Messi at bay, qualifying for the final of the Champions League.
Klopp’s side duly served the purpose. “If we can do it, wonderful” - and wonderful it was, indeed.
However, there was another team across the continent, over 4000 miles away, which may have done justice to Jurgen Klopp’s only other imagined possibility.
Since the inception of the Indian Premier League, the Delhi franchise has been the one which had almost always shown promise.
And then, the season would kick off.
Poor decisions from management, and equally disappointing decision-making on the field held Delhi from ever realizing its full potential in an IPL season. It was a tiresome loop for their fans – Hope and Despair.
And so, the 2019 season of the IPL was a fresh breath of air for the Delhi Capitals. A franchise was reborn from its ashes, and it might just be here for a very long innings.
This season had been the one of reckoning for the Delhi Capitals. The side’s campaign in the Indian Premier League might have come to a rude halt last night with a loss to Chennai Super Kings - but it hardly felt like a loss. On the contrary, it felt more satisfactory than the one in 2012, when Delhi (then Delhi Daredevils) last reached the final four – simply because the idea, backed by years of meticulous planning, was finally forming a shape.
The franchise underwent a crucial overhaul this season. The change, right from its hierarchy, to the management and the players, indicated the Capitals’ idea of doing away with mediocrity. And it was simple – in a game as dynamic as T20, you need to build around the dynamic factors of your side – the youth.
The Young Blood:
It was a brave call, especially for a side without an IPL title to show for. Even worse, for a side whose priority was to not finish at the bottom of the league table.
Shreyas Iyer, the 24-year-old captain of Delhi Capitals, led the squad whose 16 players are 25 or under. Its core comprised of players like Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Kagiso Rabada, Shikhar Dhawan and Iyer himself, with only Dhawan being above 25. But it was a risk worth taking, and the reward has been overwhelmingly fulfilling.
The decision to structuralize the batting order around four Indian batsmen proved to be a success for Delhi Capitals. Barring Shaw, who had his own, little moments, all crossed the 400-run mark. Veteran batsman Shikhar Dhawan, who made a comeback to the franchise after years of success with Sunrisers Hyderabad, finished with 521 runs this season.
Kagiso Rabada’s IPL season came to a premature end after he flew back to South Africa after injury fears. The fact that he remains the highest wicket-taker (25 wickets in 12 games) in the tournament speaks volume about his contribution with the ball.
And while the brilliant performances from the core were central to DC’s season, their performances were complimented well by the experienced folks – Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra and Chris Morris.
The perfect management:
The Delhi-franchise had grown rather infamous for its management’s blunders. Few faithful have forgotten the inclusion of Sunny Gupta for Morne Morkel in the all-important qualifier in 2012 against Chennai Super Kings – and the decision was only one of the many which dented Delhi’s progress throughout the tournament’s history.
This year, Sourav Ganguly combined with Ricky Ponting in guiding the young side, and the result could well be summarized by Shreyas Iyer’s statement after the game against CSK last night:
“At the start of the season with half of us youngsters in the team (but) Ricky, Sourav Ganguly came in and gave their views regarding how we would be going this season. Everyone was really enthusiastic to take forward from there on.
“Ponting is definitely a legend. Whenever he talks in the dressing room, no one has to talk after that. Because if someone does that, it's of no use. The way he talks, it's just like a song or a rap. He's got that flow and he's been doing it for 20 years.”
The Aussie coach stated earlier in the season that he is not at the club to curb his players’ attacking approach, but to aid them in being efficient. And throughout the course of the season, it showed.
The Capitals’ season began with a monumental collapse against Kings XI Punjab, triggered by Pant’s instinctual tendency to attack. In their final game, it was Rishabh Pant who rescued DC’s innings after the top-order failure, steering them to a respectable total of 147-9 against CSK.
It didn’t win them the game, and there is work to be done in the side’s mentality under pressure, but the signs throughout the season only inspire hope for improvement.
The fans of the Delhi-franchise may have grown to be hopeless over the years, but it might be the time for them to unlearn – simply because the promises shown by the young Delhi Capitals’ squad oozes confidence for a bright future.
This team of young stars has successfully parted ways with the haunting past of the franchise, and made the cricket fans across the country stand up and take note of its fearless brand of cricket.
The core of the team (barring Dhawan) is set to stay in its prime for the next 8-9 years, and the Capitals are on the right path to become an incredibly dangerous outfit.
Delhi Capitals saw the beginning of a new story this year. And this story has all the characters who could steer this franchise towards glory.
They might have not achieved the prize of the season, but they, as Jurgen Klopp's only other possibility demanded, have failed in the most beautiful way.