#360view: Kirsten's influence key

Joy Chakravarty 03:56 03/05/2015
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Leader: South African JP Duminy.

They may not be anywhere near the top of the table right now, but Delhi Daredevils have proved to be the surprise of this year’s Indian Premier League.

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To be fair, Delhi had hit rock bottom so the only way they could have gone was up. The team that topped the league table in 2012, had finished rank last in the previous two editions. In that period, Daredevils won just five matches in 30 outings – three out of 16 in 2013 and two in 14 last year. 

The losing streak continued when they were beaten in the first two ties this year. Both were close matches with last-ball finish, but losses nevertheless.

A five-wicket win against Kings XI Punjab in Pune started the revival. That was their first win after 11 defeats and almost a full calendar year.

Two matches later, they annihilated Mumbai Indians at Ferozeshah Kotla to end a nine-match losing streak at home. The JP Duminy-led, and Gary Kirsten-coached side have won four times this year, and even though they were in sixth place, they are looking like a good bet to make it to the play-offs.

Kirsten, whose credentials as a coach are unmatched after helping India win the 2011 World Cup and taking them to No. 1 position in Test cricket and repeating it with the Proteas, has clearly been the mastermind of this turnaround.

The South African played a very active role during the auctions this year, with Daredevils officials admitting Kirsten had complete freedom of choice as long as Delhi managed to get Yuvraj Singh, ear-marked as their marquee player.

Inspiring: Gary Kirsten.

Kirsten decided to start from scratch. He completely disbanded the unit, retaining only two players – Duminy and Quinton de Kock.

Duminy was elevated to the role of captain, and that was another important decision given the South African’s relationship with Kirsten. And he hasn’t disappointed. He has made runs, taken wickets and led by example.

Imran Tahir and Albie Morkel were two more additions from Kirsten’s home country, while Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews and Australian duo of Nathan Coulter-Nile and Markus Stoinis completed the foreign signings.

Kirsten also brought in veteran Zaheer Khan, and the wily former Indian pace bowler underlined his importance with a superb spell in his first match on Friday when Delhi made mincemeat of Punjab.

Their turnaround becomes even more remarkable, given that their biggest star, Yuvraj – also, their largest spend in this year’s auction – is struggling massively. He has scored just 124 runs, and has played only one innings that actually made an impact on the outcome of the match – his 54 against Punjab in Delhi’s third game.

Also missing out on the entire tournament is fast bowler Mohammad Shami, who was expected to be Delhi’s strike bowler. Shami, who impressed so much playing for India in the Cricket World Cup, is recuperating from a knee injury.

The batting has been slightly weak, with too much expected from promising youngsters Shreyas Iyer and Mayank Agarwal at the top and Duminy coming in at one-down.

The bowling has also depended on a couple of players – Tahir, Coulter-Nile and Duminy – and yet they have somehow managed to pull it off as a team so far.

What Daredevils now need is a more complete performance and contributions from the other players. That will surely make them serious challengers for the crown.

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