If there is one side that has failed to capitalise on a talent-filled roster year after year in the Indian Premier League, it’s Delhi Daredevils. They have always had some of the finest cricketers in their dugout but they inexplicably end up at the bottom of the table or make a muck of things after making it to the semifinals. Every season they promise big, spend bigger and raise hopes by putting up some performances worthy of the stars in their midst, but they rarely result in anything tangible.
That being said, they can still be one of the most entertaining outfits to watch. And this year, they have roped in Rahul Dravid as mentor and Paddy Upton as head coach. The duo turned Rajasthan Royals into a formidable unit before the team was suspended. Much is expected of them here too, to bring in some stability and possibly even guide Delhi to some much-needed silverware.
A mix of youth and experience provides Delhi with the balance they have always strived for. So far, they haven’t been particularly good at executing their plans despite possessing as strong a side as any, but they could stem the rot this time around. With Zaheer Khan at the helm, they have a seasoned pro with an astute mind to lead them.
Zaheer has some serious talent to pick from, but one stands out at this point, owing to the four successive sixes he smashed against England to fetch West Indies their second World T20 title. Carlos Brathwaite’s presence will be a big boost to go with a string of big-hitters and quality strokemakers. Delhi’s bowling, for which they roped in Chris Morris and Pawan Negi, too looks sturdy.
Delhi’s inability to pull through as a unit when the odds begin to stack against them has been their biggest concern since the inaugural edition. Also, if they let their last season’s performance, where they won five out of 14 games, play on their mind, they could be pushing themselves into a corner before throwing a punch.
Delhi have been the eternal underachievers despite packing their side with some of the most electric talent available over the years. They made it to the semifinals in 2008 and 2009, and showed some promise in 2012 when they topped the league stage, but since crashing out there, they have finished either at the bottom or at the penultimate spot on the table.
2016 auction action
Delhi’s purchases were again one of the talking points of this season’s auction. This time, however, they weren’t after icon players. They targeted young talent and showed just how much they were willing to invest in youth by bidding for Pawan Negi and Karun Nair. They got Negi after an intense bidding battle with Rising Pune Supergiants for Rs 8.5 crore, the highest paid for an Indian this year and nearly 30 times his base price of Rs 30 lakh. They also bought Morris for Rs 7 crore, Rs 6.5 crore more than his base price, while paying Rs 4.2 crore for Brathwaite, who had set his base price at Rs 30 lakh. In all, they spent Rs 31 crore on 14 players.
Young player to watch
There are plenty of names to look out for in the side, but of the lot, Shreyas Iyer will again be the focus. Iyer was Delhi’s highest run-getter last season, and continued that form into the domestic first-class season. The 21-year-old had a spectacular Ranji season in guiding Mumbai to the title, scoring 1321 runs at an average of 73.38 and a strike-rate of 92.70. He has been on the threshold of the senior national side for a couple of years now; perhaps, a good performance will be just the boost he needs.
Squad: Zaheer Khan (captain), JP Duminy, Quinton de Kock (wk), Imran Tahir, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Morris, Joel Paris, Sam Billings, Mayank Agarwal, Mohammed Shami, Shahbaz Nadeem, Jayant Yadav, Amit Mishra, Shreyas Iyer, Akhil Herwadkar, Chama Milind, Karun Nair, Mahipal Lomror, Pawan Negi, Pawan Suyal, Pratyush Singh, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Syed Khaleel Ahmed.
Roshan Thyagarajan is cricket correspondent at Wisden India . Mint is in content partnership with Wisden India for the Indian Premier League season.