Since qualifying for the final four in the 2012 season, the Delhi franchise had been in a sad loop. Bad management decisions and instability in the squad have wrecked their seasons, year after year. The fans were left frustrated and even when the squad, at least on paper showed promise last year, the sad loop continued.
The wooden spoon continued to haunt Delhi - but not anymore.
This year, a rechristened Delhi franchise defied the odds. A change in ownership, a reasonable change in the squad and welcome additions to the coaching staff aided Delhi to a third-place finish in the IPL table. Moreover, the Delhi Capitals finished on the same points as the top-2, Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians - the IPL elites.
The Capitals will face Sunrisers Hyderabad in the eliminator of IPL 2019 later tonight - their first appearance at this stage in seven years.
While Delhi has had an impressive season, Sunrisers have been scratchy. David Warner and Jonny Bairstow played a hugely important role in Hyderabad’s road to the eliminator, but both have now joined international duty.
The Australian opener left Sunrisers after his 12th game for the franchise this season – the fact that he’s likely to end as the top scorer of IPL this season speaks volume about his contribution. Bairstow, too, left Sunrisers after scoring an impressive 445 runs from 10 games.
The Hyderabad franchise is depleted, while Delhi looks stronger on paper.
However, both the sides can fancy their chances in the eliminator if they capitalize on each other’s weaknesses. How? Let’s have a look.
Absence of Kagiso Rabada:
The South African pacer emerged as one of the top performers in the IPL this season. Rabada took 25 wickets in 12 games before leaving the side to join the South African squad for the World Cup preparations.
In Rabada, Delhi had a lethal death-over weapon, who could also provide a breakthrough in the initial stages of the game. His wicket-taking yorker delivery to Andre Russell in the super-over was the one to remember for ages. In addition, Rabada’s accuracy also kept the run-flow in check.
In his absence, Delhi Capitals bowling lineup grows significantly leaky. Even as they meet a Sunrisers team without Warner and Bairstow, Rabada’s absence is a big blow.
Inexperience in big games:
None of the current players in the Delhi Capitals squad has played in a final four game of the Indian Premier League for the side. The side is untested in high-pressure situations, and their record in closely-contested games has been shaky even in this season.
The side suffered from one of its worst collapses against Kings XI Punjab earlier this season, where their final six batsmen were bundled out for a collective total of 6 runs.
Sunrisers, on the other hand, will make their fifth play-offs appearance this year and thus hold an upper-edge over their rivals in this regard.
The Delhi Capitals may have improved manifolds this season, but their reckless batting approach has cost them on instances. In the game against Kings XI Punjab, Delhi were cruising towards victory at 144 for 3 wickets in 16 overs, chasing 167.
However, Rishabh Pant’s instinctual attacking tendency triggered an embarrassing collapse for the side. Even as Delhi improved in performances and results began to favor the side, the recklessness in the batting order remained an issue.
Combine such an approach with the pressure of being knocked-out, and Sunrisers Hyderabad get a genuine chance to exploit the weakness.
Weakened opening line-up:
With the departure of David Warner and Jonny Bairstow, SRH’s batting lineup has become significantly exposed. The duo has often shielded Sunrisers’ middle-order this season and was central to their victory in a number of games.
Out-of-form middle order:
Often, the SRH middle-order has failed to capitalize on the momentum provided by Warner and Bairstow. In their absence, the responsibility of steering the innings comes down to players like Kane Williamson, Manish Pandey and Vijay Shankar.
While Williamson and Pandey have been among the runs of late, both have been inconsistent. When the lack of consistency combines with their tendency to build the innings, the number of dot-balls in the middle overs tends to increase, which could hinder SRH’s chances.
Vijay Shankar, on the other hand, has failed to make his mark in this season so far and this might be his final opportunity to gain momentum before flying to England for the World Cup.
SRH’s bowling line-up has been impressive this year. After a shaky start, Bhuvneshwar Kumar has stepped-up in his last few games. While Rashid Khan continues to be their best bowler, Khaleel Ahmed has also produced breakthrough displays.
However, the side falls short of options for the rest of the overs. Mohammad Nabi has been struggling of late, and even when Khaleel has been consistently taking wickets, the left-arm pacer has leaked runs.
Basil Thampi was reasonably decent in the game against RCB, but his lack of game time could be a deciding factor. Siddarth Kaul (8.96), Sandeep Sharma (8.25), Shahbaz Nadeem (10.00) and Abhishek Sharma (10.50) have all leaked runs this year.
Delhi Capitals will aim to make the most of these eight overs, where the game could take a deciding turn.