If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, goes the adage, but as with everything else, Twenty20 cricket has forced a slight modification here as well. It's not enough merely to have a plan, you have to have multiple plans, back-ups and the ability to think on your feet and react to changing situations.
The Delhi team has been extremely successful in the implementation of its master plan. First they went all out in stocking their bowling department with medium-pacers. For a new-ball pairing you just can't get better than Glenn McGrath and Mohammad Asif, for stable and sensible support there's Farveez Maharoof, V. Yomahesh and Rajat Bhatia. Amit Mishra is the lone specialist spinner in the squad but he hasn't got a look-in so far.
In Twenty20 cricket, it is often only two overs that change the course of the game. If those two critical overs come right at the start it makes the job of those that follow that much easier. Delhi are well equipped when it comes to the start of the innings, whether it comes to bowling or batting. In almost every game McGrath and Asif have picked up early wickets and it's not a coincidence that in the last game they lost, to the Mumbai team, Delhi were unable to force a breakthrough in the first five overs.
When Delhi have been forced to think outside their main plan, things haven't been perfect. The only time they voluntarily changed things around, and chose to bat first, they scraped together 158 against Mohali and even after getting early wickets could not defend their total. With Daniel Vettori going back to New Zealand to play against England, the lack of spinner in the mix is something the team will have to think about, for their attack is robbed of variety when they play only medium-pacers. Virender Sehwag and Shoaib Malik have been sharing spin duties, but canny as they are, they're only part-time bowlers.
With almost half the tournament gone, trends and patterns are becoming clear and Delhi's test comes when they are pushed into a situation where they have to deviate from their script for the perfect game and have to activate Plan B.
When it comes to the batting as well, it is up front that Delhi are loaded with. Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir have taken bowlers to the cleaners. When they don't come off, though, the type of batsmen they have in middle and late order leave them a little thin. AB de Villiers hasn't yet fired. Malik can play the big shots, but is not one of those brutal hitters. Bhatia is versatile and Maharoof will have a go, but scoring consistently at 10-plus an over may be asking too much. “There are some people who have a name as big-hitters. That does not mean others can't score quickly,” T.A. Sekar, who runs the Delhi team, insists. “We have players capable of playing the kind of shots needed in Twenty20.”
To labour the point, all this is very well when things are going your way. Among the league leaders the Chennai team have Mahendra Singh Dhoni to bail them out if they're in a jam and Rajasthan turn to Shane Watson.
Not all teams have these floaters and the results underscore their value. Delhi now have to look at ways of moving away from their main plan and build some flexibility into their team, as the team that adapts best will give itself the highest chance of succeeding.