Through the first phase of the domestic Twenty20 league, Virender Sehwag had been an enigmatic presence as the Delhi Daredevils stacked up only defeats, six of them in a row from the start. A back injury, missed games and early dismissals even led to murmurs that India's enforcer not long ago was on a downward spiral.
But with a full house turning up at the Ferozeshah Kotla on a balmy Sunday, Sehwag sprang to life in stunning fashion, hammering the highest individual score of the season, an unbeaten 95 off 57 balls that crushed the Mumbai Indians by nine wickets.
The manner of the first win of the season has infused belief in Delhi that with self-belief they can even dream of winning from here. Yes, with nine league
games left, they may well have to win them all if they are to stay in contention for a qualification spot.
Sehwag raised the highest partnership for DD in the league's history, 151 for the opening wicket with Mahela Jayawardene (59 off 43 balls) after the skipper promoted himself in a last-ditch effort. That left Mumbai reeling as they suffered their third defeat in six games.
Until the result became a foregone conclusion, the game had been the latest demonstration of misfiring foreign skippers in this edition fighting to keep their heads above water. All five foreign skippers, picked to lead due to sheer reputation or circumstances, have faced questions about their own performances.
Going into Sunday's fixture, three of the top four in the points table were teams led by Indian players — Royal Challengers Bangalore head the list, CSK are third and Rajasthan Royals fourth and the individual form of Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Rahul Dravid have played vital roles besides leading smartly.
The Sunrisers Hyderabad, currently second, are doing well despite their skipper Kumar Sangakkara not pulling his weight. All others — Jayawardene, Ricky Ponting (MI), Adam Gilchrist (KXIP) and Angelo Mathews (PWI) have even raised questions whether they deserve a spot in the eleven.
Thus, it came as no surprise when Ponting opted out as opener. Mumbai piled up 161 for four with Rohit Sharma (73) taking over after Sachin Tendulkar (54) had laid the foundation. Ponting never batted to help maintain the momentum.
Jayawardene, having come down the order after the fall of early wickets, took things into his hands. The laggards of the league were left smiling after he and Sehwag decimated the Mumbai bowlers, racing to 165 for one in 17 overs.
Sehwag (13x4, 2 x6) and Jayawardene were dismissive of the young Jasprit Bumrah and Munaf Patel — both went for 17 runs each in one over. Once in the mood, they picked the gaps and swung freely.
Mumbai, with Tendulkar dropped on 37 and Kieron Pollard too put down by the same fielder, Shahbaz Nadeem, thought they had enough runs in the bag despite opener Dwayne Smith and in-form Dinesh Karthik falling early. Tendulkar and Rohit, who hit his third half-century, raised 96 runs for the third wicket off 67 balls before Rohit accelerated.
But the total proved too few for Sehwag.