Woeful year comes to a close | india | Hindustan Times
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Woeful year comes to a close

Delhi's sorry season has finally ended. And they will live to play another day in the top tier of the Ranji Trophy.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2006 00:41 IST

Delhi's sorry season has finally ended. And they will live to play another day in the top tier of the Ranji Trophy. Sadly, that they have survived among the Elite of the Ranji group is no reflection on anything they have done, simply that another team, defending champions (now a misnomer) Railways, were an even sorrier sight.

For people who have grown up watching Delhi cricket, and loved and supported the team through the years, through their trials and tribulations, through triumphant marches and the most testing of times, this day has to be a moment of truth. Maybe this whole season has been one long, frozen moment. How could things have gone so terribly wrong, so quickly?

The blame game will now start. Everyone needs a scapegoat and certainly, the corridors of power of Delhi cricket would be looking to fix the blame on a player (probably the captain) or a couple. But this would be utterly unfair. Unconcerned DDCA officials There is one overwhelming reason that this stage has been reached --- there is simply no justice in the DDCA. Delhi cricket has not been ruined because there is a dearth of talent in the country's Capital --- it has been ruined because the body that runs it is corrupt and viciously split.

Let us not forget that the only time we saw a sizeable gathering of DDCA officials was not when the team was doing well. They came like scavengers, and gathered like the craven to feast on the remnants of Delhi cricket when the team was collapsing against Gujarat at the Kotla.

The sight of sundry officials, grown prosperous on money made off cricket through means mostly illegal, standing there and shaking their heads with ill-concealed glee at the sight of a struggling team, ruined by the DDCA's own politicking and Machiavellian maneuvering, was enough to put off any normal person. And it did several.

Even as the team banded together and fought back to give themselves a chance, the officials faded away, back into the shadows from where the stench of desperate gloom had drawn them out.

Uninspired think-tank At the same time, too much has gone wrong on the field itself. Madan Lal stayed coach of a team that had not been doing well for the past two years due to circumstances other than cricketing.

All could have been forgiven if he had been fair, or was perceived to be fair, on the field. But he was not. He insists he gave his 100 per cent and could not go and perform on the field. "That is up to them (the players)," he said time and again.

Yet, he cannot shirk away from what has been atrocious planning. And if the planning was based on an understanding of the team's strengths and weaknesses, then a more appalling example of a lack of understanding of your own team would be tough to find. Lack of balance in the side Anyone running a casual eye down the Delhi roster could have indicated that the team's strength lay in its batting. That apart from Amit Bhandari (and despite Chetanya Nanda's steady performance) this team lacked a match-winning bowler, one who could be called upon to change the course of the game.

And unfortunately, Bhandari struggled through the season, moving from inspired moments of potent bowling to sullen periods of lethargy that reflected a depression probably brought upon by the added burden of captaincy --- something he has proven completely unfit for.

Not unexpectedly, everyone expected this, other than those in power. The sad part is that without the charge of captaincy hanging around his neck like a millstone, Bhandari may have bowled much better but this now, is an old story.

Madan Lal periodically said he didn't have the team he wanted but once the team was there, he had to make the best of Delhi' strengths. Instead, he wasted them away. He provided all-comers with bowling tracks, not sporting ones but those of the type that should not really be allowed in first-class games. Away from home even at home Delhi also messed it up by trying for four points when they weren't even sure of two. They seemed utterly confused. They started with a good batting track, then decided spin was their strength and went for a completely under-prepared one, then moved onto a green, wet wicket where the toss was a lottery and finally decided that pace was their baby and gave a total greentop. They had lost home advantage before it began.

And as an attack, Delhi had a bunch who took 20 wickets just once in the season (and that too on an akhara Railways track where someone had to give) and ended up by being the laughing stock of Chennai. As a result, after playing on wicket after bad batting wicket --- please note here that not only the Delhi batsmen, even the teams they hosted struggled to bat on the tracks Delhi provided other than that first Kotla track against Mumbai --- the batsmen knew they were battling against the odds even at home.

The batting performances in the last two games, against Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, away from the vitiated atmosphere of Delhi, has to make one happy that Delhi will probably have a number of away games next year.

Still, that is no solution. Neither is wholesale change. Bengal, who began the season with the knowledge that they had just escaped relegation last year, have entered the semi-finals without dramatic changes. Two wrongs do not make a right. Right now, Delhi need to be fair.