For the fifth straight year, Delhi Daredevils failed to qualify for the playoffs. After finishing eighth, seventh, sixth in the last three editions, respectively, the capital-based outfit replicated their last year’s performance, as they finished a lowly sixth in the eight-team tournament.
Their season ended with a thrilling 10-run loss against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Sunday night (May 14). After restricting the Royal Challengers to 161, the Daredevils made a mess of the chase and were eventually bowled out for 151.
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At 87 for two in the 12th over with Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant going strong, the Zaheer Khan led side was looking well set to finish the season with a win.
However, the match turned on its when Iyer was dismissed by Harshal Patel, the floodgates opened. On the very next delivery, the right-arm pacer accounted for Marlon Samuels to leave the Daredevils reeling at 87 for five. 18 runs later, Corey Anderson also returned to the pavilion after scoring just three and the writing was very much on the wall when the home side lost two more wickets including the prized scalp of Rishabh Pant inside the next 14 runs.
A brief cameo by Mohammed Shami reignited the hopes but it all ended when he was stumped out in the final over.
The loss is perhaps the testament to their season where they fell out of the playoffs race for their failures to come out on top in close games. And their mentor, Rahul Dravid admitted that losing some of the close games earlier in the season cost his side a place in the playoffs. He also said that the improvement the Daredevils have shown in the last couple of years was still not good enough.
“I think if you look at the last couple of years, I feel from the two years before that, we have shown some improvement and we have looked to go in the right direction but it’s not been enough,” Dravid said.
“You need eight wins to qualify in this tournament, we got seven last year, six this year and I think the close games we lost probably cost us. That’s the nature of the tournament, there are some good teams and you need to win those games, there were probably seven or eight games that were close and we probably won only two of them, five or six we lost and you can’t afford to lose that many. You need to get in the right side of the result of a few of them and we couldn’t. Obviously, it is a little bit disappointing but there were positives as well right through the season,” he added.
Dravid further rued the absence of Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy during the entire season. The former India skipper said that the franchise looked out for last-minute options but to could not avail. In the South African duo’s absence, the onus was on the likes of Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer and Karun Nair to take the responsibility but their inconsistency never allowed the Daredevils to hit the top gear.
“Unfortunately for us at the start of the season, after the auction, Quinton and JP, who were probably our two experienced players, pulled out of the IPL because of injury and we had to look for replacements at the last minute and which I guess isn’t easy when most of the players are taken,” Dravid pointed out.
With the batting lineup full of youngsters, Dravid said the franchise tried to make up for it with an experienced bowling lineup.
“So to balance it out we tried to go with slightly a more experienced bowling attack because we knew we had young Indian batsmen. I think there is a lot of talent, a lot of good ability in the group but maybe sometime you know you have to get the balance right, maybe we didn’t have the little bit of luck as well, injuries at the wrong time, maybe a couple of guys didn’t kick on as we well as would have liked but that’s the nature of the tournament,” he added.
Another reason that probably did not allow the Daredevils to do well this season was forced changes in the side. The likes of Corey Anderson, Shreyas Iyer, Zaheer Khan and Chris Morris missed the games at one stage or another due to injuries or illness. However, Dravid refused to use it as an excuse and said that the team had enough options to make up for the absence of the players.
“Sometimes there are forced changes due to injury,” Dravid said. “Corey Anderson at the start he was the man of the match against Kings XI and then he got injured for two games. Zaheer Khan got injured in the middle for two or three games. Chris Morris got injured towards the back end of the tournament. There are some injuries, sometimes you do take calculated decisions. Shreyas Iyer was not there for the first two games due to chicken pox.
“Few of the changes were obviously forced due to injuries, niggles people had, sometimes you do make tactical changes as well when people are not in form so it’s hard to assess, each and every game was different. That’s not really an excuse. I believe we had the squad and the players to make up for that. I think the team was really good, maybe a little bit inexperienced in the batting because of the injuries early on but I still think we had the ability and a lot of opportunities in a lot of the games. If I look on five or six of the games, we were actually ahead and we couldn’t close out those games. maybe that’s a lack of experience, maybe that’s something we can learn from and take ahead in the future,” he concluded.