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How Delhi turned its fortunes around

April 26, 2019 11:20 IST

'We knew these youngsters could turn out to be match-winners and we waited patiently for the last three years because success doesn't come overnight, it takes time.'

IMAGE: Delhi Capitals have been on a good run, winning five out of their last six games. Photograph: BCCI

They changed the name, changed most of their players, made some key changes to their coaching staff and it seems Delhi Capitals have finally found the right formula for success.

Formerly Delhi Daredevils, the team was renamed Delhi Capitals after the Jindal Group acquired a 50 percent stake in the GMR-owned franchise.

Hiring former India captain Sourav Ganguly as team mentor has proved a major factor in Delhi's long-awaited turnaround in the IPL.

After a long time, the Delhi franchise look like making it to the play-offs, a feat they achieved way back in 2012.

They have emerged one of the most consistent teams in IPL-12, winning 7 of their 11 games played so far, to be placed second in the IPL table behind the Chennai Super Kings.

They have been on a roll in the last few weeks, winning 4 of their last 5 games and are now being talked upon as one of the favourites for the IPL title.

Captain Shreyas Iyer has led from the front with the bat while youngsters like Prithvi Shaw and Rishabh Pant have exceeded expectations. The experienced Shikhar Dhawan, who was traded from Sunrisers Hyderabad ahead of the season, has repaid the trust along with South African Colin Ingram.

Kagiso Rabada has been on fire with the ball, leading the IPL wicket-taking charts with 23 wickets from 11 games. His South African compatriot Chris Morris has also made some good contributions with the ball.

"The key thing for us this year was the way we have done away from home. It is not easy to win away games because the home teams are used to the conditions, so doing well away from home consistently is a great achievement by the team this year," former India batsman Pravin Amre, head talent scout at Delhi Capitals, tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian.

 

What is responsible for this superb turnaround because you didn't start off well, losing three out of the first five games?

The most important thing is the performance of the players because they are the ones who go out in the middle and play the matches.

Ricky Ponting along with Sourav Ganguly and the entire team management has done a good job with the team off the field.

It is not like that everything was a cakewalk. We also had a downtime when we lost back to back games.

We needed to come back strongly after that stage which we managed to do.

The key thing for us this year was the way we have done away from home.

We were aware that if we had to qualify for the play-offs, we need to win matches away from home which we have done.

It is not easy to win away games because the home teams are used to the conditions and they select their team and play accordingly, so doing well away from home consistently is a great achievement by the team this year.

T20 is a batsmen-dominated game and if you see, five of our batsmen have won man of the match awards so far this year.

Pant's first man of the match innings, when he hit the 18-ball 50 in our tournament opener (against the Mumbai Indians) set the tone for us.

Beating Mumbai Indians in Mumbai is a really big achievement, especially considering that we had lost the toss. We scored 213 against Mumbai Indians who have a strong bowling attack which gave us the belief.

And we started on a winning note which gave us the momentum right from the start of the IPL.

We lost to CSK at home, but we came back strongly to win two games at home.

We beat KKR in the Super Over which gave us the confidence that we can win games in a close finish, we have players who can do the job in pressure situations.

The way Kagiso Rabada bowled in that Super Over, including taking Andre Russell's wicket, that was something special.

So every time we have needed that something extra to take the initiative, we have had players coming forward to take the responsibility.

But Delhi's collapse against Kings XI Punjab was unbelievable. Your team lost 8 wickets for 7 runs to lose the match from a position when you were winning easily.
How difficult is it to motivate the team from such a shocking loss?

We, the team management, backed our players and we stuck to the same combination in the batting.

We have backed our top five batsmen and persisted with them because we believe in them and that confidence has helped them.

We knew the role of the openers would be crucial and that is why Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw have been criticial to our success.

We dominated the last three matches in the Powerplay. In a T20 match, it gives you the advantage if the openers get you to off to a quickfire start, then you can build in the middle overs.

When our batting clicks, we can take on any team.

Shikhar Dhawan switched to Delhi Capitals this year and struggled to get going at the start. Now, he seems to have regained his touch. How did he get his batting back on track?

We all knew his ability. Another advantage was that he knew the wicket at the Feroz Shah Kotla very well because he has played (there) a lot.

Shikhar makes batting look easy even on a tough wicket like Delhi so it has helped our other batters too to understand how to play on that wicket.

Ricky backed him because he knows that if Shikhar clicks then he can be our match-winner.

Once he starts scoring runs, then it is difficult to stop him. He is the highest run-scorer for Delhi in the IPL so far (401 runs in 11 matches, as on April 25, 2019).

IMAGE: Delhi Capitals's team management: Sourav Ganguly, Pravin Amre, Ricky Ponting, Mohammad Kaif. Photograph: BCCI

The best part about your batting line-up is that the top four are all Indian batsmen -- Dhawan, Shaw, Pant, Shreyas Iyer. How happy are you that the trust the franchise has showed in youngsters like Iyer, Shaw and Pant for the last few years is finally paying off?

The credit goes to the owners because they backed them at all times.

When they bought them, they (Pant, Shaw and Iyer) were yet to play in the IPL, but Delhi gave them the break.

Those three young players have become the backbone of Delhi Capitals, the way they are performing this season.

The team has stuck together well and when things are not going well, then the team management has played its part by taking the pressure off the players.

We knew these youngsters could turn out to be match-winners and we waited patiently for the last three years because success doesn't come overnight, it takes time.

Sometimes the players take time to mature. These players have now matured and know exactly how to play in the T20 format in whatever situation they encounter.

How important a role has Kagiso Rabada played for Delhi this year? He is just 23 but comes across as a thinking bowler, who irrespective of when he bowls is very a difficult bowler to score against.

Last year, we really missed him because he was ruled out with injury. This year he has been an important player for us.

I personally feel these are very challenging conditions for him, especially bowling on a wicket like Delhi. It is not that easy for a fast bowler.

He has really developed his bowling quite well and has become a complete bowler. He can bowl in any situation and on any surface.

The way he has delivered in crucial situations has been remarkable, like in the Super Over against Andre Russell.

His bowling has given us the belief that even if the target is not that big, we can still go out and defend it like how we managed to win when defending 155 against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

The batting unit gets a lot of confidence when they know there is a bowler like Rabada in the line-up.

He is a good fielder and has taken some crucial catches, like in the game against SRH.

The other teams have experienced international players as their captain. What was behind the thinking to give Shreyas Iyer the Delhi Capitals captaincy given that he hasn't had much of captaincy experience and has not played much of international cricket as well?

We tried quite a few players in the past. Last year, we had Gautam Gambhir, but it didn't work for us.

We had to think out of the box and we decided to appoint Iyer who had done well for us the last few seasons and looked one for the future.

If you see the IPL auction, all the marquee players are retained by their respective franchises, so you hardly get any experienced players in the auction.

We took a chance with Iyer because he is a confident player. In the first year (2015), he won the IPL Emerging Player of the Year award after his good showing with the bat.

The way he led last year after he was appointed captain mid-season, his leadership skills stood out in tough games like (against the) Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.

That is why he was our choice for the captaincy.

Rishabh Pant

IMAGE: Rishabh Pant celebrates after guiding Delhi Capitals to victory against Rajasthan Royals. Photograph: BCCI

Rishabh Pant's exclusion from the World Cup squad generated much debate. How did it affect him? What advice did you give him?

It is the ultimate goal of any cricketer to play in the World Cup. Rishabh is very young and has time on his hands.

Basically, he has to move on and the best way to move on is to perform with the bat out in the middle and that is exactly what he is doing.

He has delivered with the bat for us this season, with quite a few good knocks and has already won two man of the match awards.

We are hope he will continue his good form with the bat in the rest of the matches.

This will be a good learning experience for him. Next time he will be more alert when the opportunity comes and look to grab it with both hands.

After such a good showing this year, there is talk that this could be Delhi's year, that they have the team to win the IPL. How is the belief in your camp?

We will stick to the process. Our first task is to qualify for the play-offs. Once we qualify for the knockouts stage, then we will plan for the next stage.

I believe the tournament will start in the knockout stage, the strategy will be different.

How has the Ricky Ponting-Sourav Ganguly combine clicked for Delhi?

Sourav carries his aura, his presence is very inspiring for the team. His role is to guide our young captain Shreyas Iyer.

Ricky and Sourav are giving Shreyas a lot of inputs which is making his job easy, because he doesn't have experience as captain.

Captaining international players like Rabada and Dhawan is not easy, but Sourav and Ricky are making his job easier. They are involved in creating the team strategies for the coming match at team meetings.

They give a lot of inputs which makes Shreyas's job easy. He just has to go out in the middle and execute those plans.

HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com
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