It is everyone’s favourite time of year, the IPL Season. In less than a month’s time, the defending champions, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, will take on the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first match of the 2017 IPL. After such a chaotic and exciting auction, this season is set up to be the most exciting yet. In the run up to the start of the tournament, Last Word on Cricket will be previewing each of the eight sides and rating their overall chances. The first franchise to be previewed is the Delhi Daredevils, captained by Indian legend Zaheer Khan.
IPL 2017: Delhi Daredevils Preview
The Daredevils had an average season last year, finishing sixth, having accumulated 14 points in the same number of matches. It was a relatively disappointing performance, as their squad on paper was very strong, but they did well to finish above the Rising Pune Supergiants and the Kings XI Punjab. In their 2016 campaign, South African wicket-keeper Quinton de Kock was their leading run scorer, as he accumulated an impressive 445 runs throughout the season. Indian leg-spinner Amit Mishra and overseas all-rounder Chris Morris excelled with the ball for them, as they each took 13 wickets at solid economy rates. All three of these players were retained by the Delhi Daredevils and will no doubt play a key role again this year.
In last year’s tournament there was no apparent weakness in the Delhi side, as they had a well composed squad. However, when they released Nathan Coulter-Nile and Imran Tahir from their squad, a large gap opened in their bowling department. They purchased some excellent replacements, though, picking up the impressive Kagiso Rabada. The 21 year-old overseas fast bowler has emerged as one of the best in the world and he dominated the South African Cricket Awards last year, claiming six trophies. This included the title of Cricketer of the Year and the Player’s Player of the Year. Rabada’s arrival at Delhi will serve to bolster their bowling attack and we can expect him to be a big threat throughout the season.
The Delhi Daredevils signed another overseas fast bowler in the form of Australian Pat Cummins. They paid a pricey 4.5 crore for the Aussie, with one possible reason for his high price being his performance in the 2016-17 Big Bash. Cummins took 7 wickets in that tournament, and also proved to be useful with the bat, contributing a handy 134 runs down the order. Also, as a result of Mitchell Starc’s unfortunate injury, Cummins has been called up to the Australian Test Squad and could feature in the next match against India. This shows how talented a bowler he is, and will now have a chance to acclimatise to the Indian conditions ahead of the season.
Delhi also did strengthen their batting, through the purchase of two all-rounders. They signed Sri Lankan Angelo Matthews and New Zealander Corey Anderson. Both players are explosive limited overs batsmen and have played in the IPL several times before. Matthews is in fact rejoining the Delhi Daredevils, as he featured in their 2015 squad but was released for the 2016 edition. These two all-rounders are vastly experienced and can provide more depth to the Delhi batting unit.
The core of the Delhi Daredevil’s batting unit is rooted in several talented domestic players. While Quinton de Kock is almost certain to open the batting, it is hard to predict whether Rishabh Pant or Shreyas Iyer will partner him. On the one hand, Pant had a phenomenal Ranji Trophy season, in which he scored 972 runs in just eight matches. This was at an average of over 80, but more impressively he scored his runs at a strike rate of over 100. These statistics show just how aggressive a batsman he is and was rewarded with a call up to India’s limited-overs squad as a result of this performance. However, Shreyas Iyer has been equally successful recently. Iyer also enjoyed Ranji Trophy success, scoring 725 runs in his campaign. In addition, Iyer made the headlines during the warm-up match against Australia, in which he hit a sparkling double hundred against a full strength Australian bowling attack. It could be the case that both are included in the playing XI, with Pant dropping down the order to make way for Iyer at the top.
Delhi’s middle order also relies on homegrown talent. Karun Nair and Sanju Samson will probably bat at three and four respectively, as they did last year. While Sanju Samson has been extremely unlucky not to have been given a proper chance on the international stage, Nair has been enjoying a recent stint in the India Test side. In the final Test against England, he hit an incredible triple hundred as India completed a 4-0 series win. Nair looked comfortable on the international stage and soaked up the pressure well at the start of his innings. His form at the moment is unrivalled, and Delhi will be hoping he transfers this form into this domestic tournament.
If the top order fails, the Delhi middle and lower order is full of experience to provide some stability. They have a wealth of all-rounders to pick from, although JP Duminy‘s withdrawal due to personal reasons has weakened the side. It could well be the case that Delhi select the in-form Englishman Sam Billings in Duminy’s place. Billings has been performing very well for England’s limited overs sides and scored a lot of runs in the Pakistan Super League as well. Over the past few years, he has become one of the most attractive limited-overs batsmen in the world and could well hold Delhi’s middle order together.
As mentioned earlier, Delhi’s strength lies in their bowling attack. It will be hard for them to select their four overseas players, as they have several all-rounders and specialist fast bowlers in the mix. It is likely that Delhi will only opt for one of Kagiso Rabada and Pat Cummins, as they will also probably start Zaheer Khan and Mohammed Shami. Left-armer Zaheer Khan is officially the captain of the Delhi Daredevils, and so his place in the side is relatively secure. Despite now being quite old, Zaheer delivered last season as he put in some solid performances, taking ten wickets in the tournament. Fellow Indian Mohammed Shami is likely to lead the line with him.
Shami has been unfortunately hampered by injury recently, but has been India’s first choice seamer when fit. His ability to engineer swing and pace is unrivalled by any other Indian fast bowler and he is an extremely useful asset to the Delhi Daredevils. These seamers are likely to be supported by one, or potentially two, fast bowling all-rounders. Delhi have the luxury of choosing from Carlos Brathwaite, Corey Anderson and Angelo Matthews, all of whom are talented bowlers.
The Delhi Daredevils also have a strong spin attack to support their pacemen. While they released the number one T20 spinner Imran Tahir, they did well to retain Amit Mishra and Jayant Yadav. Last season these two players featured regularly in the Delhi starting line-up, and depending on the conditions they could both be key parts of the Delhi XI this year. Jayant Yadav has been particularly impressive recently, having earned a call-up to India’s Test side. He made the most of his opportunity there, as he picked up a few wickets against England, as well as contributing with the bat. Mishra hasn’t been included in India’s Test side for a while, but still represents India in the shorter formats of the game. The leg spinner has enjoyed some recent success and stands a chance of being able to take the most wickets for Delhi again this season.
Due to a strong performance in the IPL Auction, the Delhi Daredevils are in a much better place now than they were last season. It will be tough for them to make the play-offs, but they have a strong squad on paper and if the senior players stand up, they may just prove us wrong. They should definitely finish higher than last year and are going to be an exciting side to watch.
- Shreyas Iyer / Rishabh Pant
- Quinton de Kock (wk)
- Karun Nair
- Sanju Samson
- Sam Billings
- Rishabh Pant / Aditya Tare
- Carlos Brathwaite / Angelo Matthews / Corey Anderson
- Amit Mishra / Jayant Yadav
- Mohammed Shami
- Kagiso Rabada / Pat Cummins
- Zaheer Khan (c)