The Delhi Daredevils slumped to their fourth consecutive loss, and seventh overall in nine matches in the Indian Premier League, after losing to Sunrisers Hyderabad by eight wickets (via Duckworth-Lewis Method) at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Saturday in a match that was interrupted by rain four times.
In a way, the rain interruptions only delayed the inevitable and prolonged the Daredevils' misery in what has been a long and painful season so far, even though the team's official Twitter handle would have you believe otherwise.
Saturday's loss means that the Daredevils, who have just four points from nine matches, now only have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the knockouts, with just five games to go. If they win all five, they could just sneak through. However, with the form they're in, it seems a very distant dream.
So where has it gone wrong for Delhi?
Batting order insecurities
For one, with the kind of purchases they made in the player auction, their batting was over-hyped before the tournament began. With names such as Kevin Pietersen, Dinesh Karthik, JP Duminy and Quinton de Kock bolstering their batting line-up, the pre-season previews were all about how Delhi's batting is strong enough to win them games and how it would be Pietersen's season.
As it turned out, being strong on paper and appointing one of the best batsmen in the world as captain does not guarantee wins. It's got to be backed by performances and a game plan, both of which were found wanting from the Delhi camp.
JP Duminy, who has scored 284 runs in nine matches at an average of 71, has been the only major positive in Delhi's season so far, followed by Dinesh Karthik (232 runs in nine matches) and wicketkeeper-batsman Kedar Jadhav (102 runs in five matches), who was drafted in after missing out the first few games.
However, where Delhi erred was their batting formation, that is to say reserving their best performers for too late.
It's Cricket 101 that you've got to make your best batsmen face the most deliveries. Duminy has not batted above No. 5 except on one occasion, against the Mumbai Indians.
Delhi, instead, chose to keep Duminy for the middle order in a bid to provide a late boost and rescue them in case the top order failed. On Saturday against Hyderabad, which was a must-win game for Delhi, Duminy and Jadhav only came in at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively.
The move just smacked of insecurity, which spawned from their top order not performing up to expectations. It came as no surprise then as the Daredevils could manage only 28 runs from the last six overs.
Pietersen's delayed arrival
The troubles of skipper Pietersen have been well documented by this columnist earlier. Prior to Saturday, in his previous six outings, the former England cricketer had failed to deliver, both as a batsman and a captain.
However, against Hyderabad, Pietersen promoted himself up the order and opened for the first time in the IPL. The move seemed to work as a button somehow flicked on inside him and the fans finally got to see glimpses of the Pietersen of yore, for which the Daredevils had shelled out $1.5 million.
Not only could he connect bat with ball this time, but the archetypal square and cover drives were back, and the crowd also had to take cover for two massive launches into the stands on either arm of the "V."
Unfortunately, Pietersen's innings could only be labelled a cameo as he soon found the safe hands of cover trying to play an inside-out shot off Amit Mishra after a 19-ball 35.
While the innings would have done good to Pietersen's confidence, he has left it a little too late to affect his team's fortunes in the tournament. At best, Delhi can hope for a strong end to the season if they muster up as many wins as possible in the five games left.
Even though all the talk has been about Delhi's batting line-up, their bowling has been far from smooth sailing as well. After Saturday's eight-wicket defeat, the Daredevils have now lost six matches by margins of six wickets or more.
In their nine matches this season, Delhi have only taken 30 wickets. Their leading wicket-taker is Jaydev Unadkat with six scalps. There are 25 bowlers ahead of him in the Purple Cap list for most number of wickets, with the highest being 15 so far.
Pietersen's staple response to his team's defeats this season has been that they are slowly getting there and it's only a matter of time before they do. However, with seven defeats in nine matches into a 14-game season, it's safe to say that the ship sailed long, long ago.
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