Before the start of IPL 2019, Delhi Capitals wasn’t even in consideration for the top four spot. No one expected them to do well. And rightly so. Season after season, the Delhi franchise had messed it up – either through bizarre selection policies or through poor performances of the players selected. The shoddy exploits of the Delhi franchise had, in fact, become a running joke amongst fans of the tournament.

After rebranding their franchise name from Delhi Daredevils to Delhi Capitals and changing the jersey, the owners also and brought in Sourav Ganguly to the management this year and hoped that this would transform their fortunes. Ganguly, along with Ricky Ponting, as the head coach, were determined to change the tide for Delhi.

And they did, against all odds.

Delhi Capitals ended the league stage with 18 points, exactly as many as finalists Mumbai Indian and Chennai Super Kings had managed. Delhi then defeated Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Eliminator but then lost the Qualifier 2 against the Chennai Super Kings. Despite that loss, though, Delhi Capitals would be proud of their stunning journey in IPL 2019. Of how they defied odds, produced the best out of their core Indian base, had a fresh look about them and almost made it to the very end.

“It’s been a dream season for us and it’s just the start,” captain Shreyas Iyer was quoted as saying to the host broadcaster after the end of Qualifier 2. “We’ve got a lot more to come next season and yes, we have gelled as a team and we’ve found the pace and now it’s time to grow from here on. I am really of proud the way [Capitals] played this season. Last season was really disappointing for us and the way we came out this year, everybody took that initiative and responsibility till this game.”

What worked for Delhi Capitals this season?

The decision of the Delhi management to frame the playing eleven with an Indian base was a masterstroke. Four Indian top-order batsmen – Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant – formed the crux of the Delhi batting unit. And it paid off brilliantly as Dhawan (521 runs), Iyer (463 runs) and Pant (488 runs) did the bulk of the scoring for them all the way through. While Iyer and Dhawan held the fort in the middle, Pant, with his swashbuckling strokeplay, finished games and came of age in this season even while having a strike rate of 162.66.

In the bowling department, the surprise inclusion of Ishant Sharma worked well as he ended the season with 13 wickets and bowled brilliantly in the Power Play overs. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra too showed his experience and class and went on to capture 11 wickets at an economy of just 6.75.

The star of the Delhi’s bowling unit, however, was Kasigo Rabada. The South African pacer was spectacular this season, snaring 25 wickets and troubling the best with his pace and guile. In fact, had Rabada been available for the playoff stage for Delhi, they might well have scripted history.

Lessons for the future

While a lot of things clicked for Delhi this season, a few things didn’t go their way as well. Their overseas players couldn’t put much of an impression this season. The likes of Colin Ingram, Sherfane Rutherford, Colin Munro, Chris Morris and Keemo Paul were patchy and struggled at different points during the season. This is something the Delhi management would have to reflect on and take the necessary course correction for it for the next season.

Regardless, this was a monumental season for Delhi Capitals, possibly a transformational one for their franchise’s future. They made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Under young captain Shreyas Iyer, and a top-class management that understands the team’s pulse, they look like a team to beat and will surely scale bigger heights going ahead.

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