Six losses in six games: The script has clearly gone awry for the Delhi Daredevils this season.
For a team that made the semifinals in the last edition of the league, what could have gone wrong between then and now? How has the team, which was just two wins away from lifting the
trophy last year, become an easy game for competitors this season?
To be fair, they started on the back-foot when their biggest prize fighter - Kevin Pietersen - was rendered hors de combat, and so too his replacement, Jesse Ryder. The situation, naturally, put the onus on senior batsmen, Virender Sehwag and Mahela Jayawardene, to carry the team's batting. But, sadly, the duo has been found wanting in the wake of extra responsibility.
Sehwag has been the key player in most of Delhi's campaigns and much of the success the Daredevils enjoyed over the earlier editions had a lot to do with him. Their slump in form, too, could be attributed to the below-par showing and fitness of their star player.
The former Daredevils' skipper missed the first three games because of back spasms, and, when he came back, he looked a pale shadow of his former destructive self.
With the senior pros not firing, the team has been hurtling from one disappointment to other. "Not one player from the Delhi Daredevils side played with the intention of winning. Some players seemed content with taking home their match fees without performances to justify the sums," said Sunil Gavaskar after their embarrassing loss to the Chennai Super Kings on Thursday.
In fact, the Daredevils' campaign began on a controversial note and raised questions over their team spirit. The absence of Sehwag from the team that landed in Kolkata, and the team management saying they had no clue about his whereabouts, led to speculation whether all was well in their camp.
"We have no idea where he's and when he will be here," Daredevils' coach Eric Simmons had said.
Unfortunately, the opening batsman isn't the only problem the team is grappling with. Their decision to trade Ross Taylor, another key batsman in the side, for left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra too hasn't paid off.
With almost all top batsmen struggling for form, Taylor could have proved more than handy.
Also, the captain and coaches need to cop the blame. Even weak teams can be converted into fighting units with the right strategy.
The Daredevils' batting unit has been known for taking the bowlers head-on, but this time they would have done well by playing a slightly different brand of cricket and opted for the safer approach of building the innings by keeping wickets in hand.
It remains to be seen whether the Daredevils have it in them to turn their season around in the second leg or sink to further depths.
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