There was a sense of deja vu when JP Duminy, senior Delhi Daredevils’ all-rounder, walked out for toss and announced a lengthy list of changes in their playing XI against a depleted Rising Pune Supergiants. Apart from ‘unfit’ captain Zaheer Khan, who he was replacing, three other in-form players from Delhi Daredevils’ last game – opener Quinton de Kock, all-rounder Chris Morris and spinner Shahbaz Nadeem – were warming the bench in order to “get the team combination right”. A classic Rahul Dravid-Paddy Upton tactic that, unfortunately, blew up in their face.
Agreed that there is no harm in testing your reserve players ahead of the knockouts, but Delhi’s move was ill-timed. High on confidence, the rejuvenated Daredevils team had a rare opportunity to wrap up their home games at the Feroz Shah Kotla with an imposing win. Two points off the win against a struggling outfit like Supergiants would have taken them to top of the points table. A victory against bottom-ranked Kings XI Punjab next, would have all but guaranteed a berth in the play-offs. But the management’s ploy to rest four of their top performers – in a match which should have been treated as just another must-win contest instead of an opportunity to experiment – cost them dear.
A break in momentum, especially after the halfway mark in the competition, doesn’t always bode well for the teams. Dravid and Upton would know this better than anyone else. Back in 2014, Rajasthan Royals paid the price for chopping and changing their squad consistently in order to test their bench strength in their final set of games. Sitting pretty in the top half of the point tally with five games still in hand, Royals’ experimentation saw them losing four of them, and with that, the chance to qualify for the playoffs after a dramatic loss to Mumbai Indians.
It might be too early to conclude if the Daredevils are going down the same path. However, it is certain that if they want to end their three-year long dry spell and secure a spot in the qualifiers, Delhi will have to build their XI around a settled nucleus and seize easy opportunities such as these to collect valuable points instead of leaving it all to the final minute.
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