Saturday, May 26, 2012

IPL Playoffs - Delhi Daredevils beats Itself

In the end it was Delhi daredevils that beat itself as it fought with all the demons in its head. If one felt that this game was about strategy and tactics and doing everything right, Delhi went the other way. They did not even do its normal things right. Facing a resurgent CSK was one but beating the demons in their head was another and sadly, the best team in the IPL, went down without a whimper, without a fight, showed no heart and simply fell apart. CSK walked all over it.

It must have started with the panic at Irfan Pathan's injury or so they lead us to believe. But Irfan Pathan is not so huge an all rounder that his absence should make them go into a tizzy. Even Morne Morkel could have hit those few sixes that Pathan does - provided he was backed well by his skipper. But they panicked, brought in a new all rounder in Andre Russel who is a decent bat and bowler but nothing match winning as a bowler - which is the key really. To compensate for his inclusion they dropped the leading wicket taker in the competition Morne Morkel and then brought in a rookie spinner Sunny Gupta who is playing his first game this season and sat out Shahbaz Nadeem. So far, suicidal you'd say. Viru, Warner, Mahela, Taylor, Naman, Venu, Negi, Umesh, Aaron, Morkel and Nadeem could have been the team. You at least had a decent bowling attack and batting till Morkel (No 8).

If that set them hugely back, they won the toss and asked Chennai to bat first throwing all their strength of batting freely with big hitters like Sehwag, Warner, Naman, Mahela and Taylor into water. All possibilities of seizing early initiative vanished and of taking the Chennai attack to sword. Now they ensured they would bat under pressure, trying to score runs given away by a slightly blunted bowling attack, which held no fears really in terms of penetration - and certainly not on the Chennai wicket. Chennai would have thanked the gods for this opportunity and stepped in hoping for a 170 total and early Delhi wickets.

And then comes the beginning of what really ended it. Murali Vijay, elegant and destructive, has been out of rhythm all season and Chennai never really got off to a good start - something which Dhoni said was key to their success (a  good start!). Against all logic, Sehwag brings in a rookie off spinner Sunny Gupta, and Murali Vijay stepped down the track and lofted him straight down four and the another. That sealed it. Vijay started feeling good, Delhi knew it had made all the tactical errors it could have done. Now all it needed to do was get out of the hole it dug for itself. Even if they had opened their bowling with Umesh Yadav who is a tough customer on any day, he would have pushed Hussey and Vijay on the backfoot. But then after that Vijay just grew in strength. The bowling changes became even more thoughtless, fielding went to pieces and CSK, which never lets an opportunity go, nailed it.

It was unbelievable to see how Delhi fought those ghosts in its head. CSK finished off the game in style, winning by 86 runs, which is a huge margin. There is no room for the weak hearted, for the unprepared at this stage and Delhi rightfully had to go. It was a huge pity because they still had enough on that team to knock CSK out. If only they had a different captain, Mahela would have been my bet, or even Taylor, and used their strengths and resources better. But Delhi put all their strengths on the bench and 'hoped' that they would surprise everyone. Sadly they surprised themselves!

Onwards to the final then. CSK and KKR. I'd go with CSK for their no nonsense, less talk more action approach which puts less pressure on them. But for my own sake, I do hope KKR gives them a run for their money and who knows, even pushes them over. KKR has the strength and the mystery bowler who takes 4-15 in most games, Sunil Narine. The big weakness for me, Gambhir is prone to make certain temperamental decisions and is strategically weaker compared to Dhoni. Let us see what transpires.

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