“I am here to win the IPL,” said the Delhi Capitals head coach and Aussie legend Ricky Ponting at the start of the season, as the team unveiled its new name (from Delhi Daredevils) and a new joint owner (JSW Group).
At that time, nobody took Ponting’s words seriously; they were merely seen as the typical pre-season bluster of coaches across sports.
Delhi Capitals finished the last season at the bottom of the pack. The last time it made the playoffs, Narendra Modi was not even a Prime Ministerial candidate. That was in 2012. Since then, DC has ended up the wooden spoonists 3 times (including last year). In the 10 editions before 2019, it made the last four only thrice. It is the only current team that has never made the finals.
All things considered, DC was seen as the IPL’s perennial punching bag.
But now, as Delhi Capitals is currently the table-topper, having made the playoffs in style, and looks good to go the distance.
— SJ (@50shadesfshrey) April 22, 2019
“The boys are really starting to believe in themselves, they are trusting one another, and playing some good cricket. So all in all, we are pretty happy with where we’re at,” Ponting said, after DC defeated RCB and sealed itself a spot in the playoffs.
So what is working for DC this season?
The advisor to the team this year, Sourav Ganguly, feels that backing talented players like Rishab Pant, Kagiso Rabada, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer, and not panicking have been crucial for the success. Seniors like Shikar Dhawan have also chipped in when it counts. “There is no such word called inexperience in this team. We have the right mix of youth and experience,” says Ganguly.
Rabada, who is the current Purple Cap holder at 25 wickets, has provided the team the sting in the bowling that it had missed all along. In Shreyas Iyer, it also seems to have found a captain who is young and fresh, and one who is not overawed by the occasion or the opposing players. He has a sharp cricketing mind, and his batting skills at the top of the order are more than handy.
And most importantly, the potentially combustible combination of Ganguly and Ponting seems to be working wonders. Says senior player Amit Mishra, who has also done his bit by claiming wickets at crucial junctures, “The presence of Dada and Ponting has helped. Both are aggressive, but both are handling the team calmly. That’s very important for any team. They have made the atmosphere nice within the team, due to which I think the players are benefiting.”
But what made the team turn the corner after hitting the lowest point last year? “This time, a proper team is in place. And I think we were lacking firepower in the middle order batting last year; the middle order has become very good,” Mishra says.
Now that the team has made the playoffs, it has to stay focused to make it to the finals and clinch the cup. But Ponting, the realist, is keeping it simple. He said the other night: “We haven’t really talked about it, just getting as well-prepared and planning as well as we can for the next challenge.”
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