Playoff spot top priority for pace-heavy Daredevils

IPL 2017

Playoff spot top priority for pace-heavy Daredevils

Narbavie R • Last updated on Mon, 03 Apr, 2017, 08:29 AM

Zaheer will be leading Daredevils again this season. (Image credit – DD) © Media Release

Delhi Daredevils began their IPL journey in fine fashion by finishing in the top-four for the first two seasons. They went through a lull period in the next two before redeeming themselves in the fifth edition when they became the first team to finish the season top of the table twice. Post 2012, the slide began as they endured disappointing campaigns year after year for four successive seasons.

Chopping and changing are two words that are so synonymous with Daredevils as we have seen in recent times. With the team constantly failing to produce results, the owners have looked to shake things up in a massive way. After finishing at the bottom in 2013 and again in 2014, they managed to climb just one spot higher in 2015 despite recruiting Gary Kirsten as coach.

The rejig happened again and this time Daredevils chose a slightly different path and opted to bank on a lot of young Indian talent to do the job. And to bring the best out of them, the combo of Paddy Upton and Rahul Dravid were drafted into the coaching set up with Kirsten getting the axe. Those two were expected to do something similar to what they did with Rajasthan Royals. Captaincy switched hands from JP Duminy to Zaheer Khan as the think-tank opted for an experienced Indian skipper. They made some smart buys as well in the auction by recruiting Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant, Karun Nair alongside Carlos Brathwaite and Chris Morris.

Following so many changes in personnel, the unit finally clicked with the veteran pacer leading them with aplomb. Zaheer received plaudits for his excellent field placements and rotation of bowlers as the Daredevils won five out of their first seven games. They were primed to make it to the playoffs finally after four years but what followed suit was something they wouldn’t have anticipated.

Over the next four games, they kept tinkering with their combination and made at least three or four changes to their XI almost every game and that disrupted their momentum. Their policy to keep chopping in order to manage the workload of certain players failed to materialise. Brathwaite was left out of the XI for the very next game after his Man of the Match exploits against Kolkata Knight Riders (34 off 11; 3-47) stunned fans and experts alike. In the end, they put themselves in a spot of bother and failed to qualify for the knockouts, finishing sixth. It will be interesting to see if they employ a similar strategy this time around or bank on a settled lineup for the majority of the games. Daredevils will have to figure out a way to enter the playoffs again after four successive failed attempts. And once they reach that stage, anything can happen.

Strengths

They have plenty of variety and reliable personnel to call upon in the bowling department. Daredevils’ attack boasts of two young overseas bowlers who can bowl at extreme pace in the form of Kagiso Rabada and Pat Cummins, medium pacers Angelo Mathews, Corey Anderson and Carlos Brathwaite and then the two seamers who have the ability to deliver at any stage of the innings with their variations – Mohammad Shami and Chris Morris. Not to discount the evergreen Zaheer, even though it remains to be seen what shape he is in. In the spin department, Daredevils have the likes of Amit Mishra, Jayant Yadav, Shahbaz Nadeem and Murugan Ashwin in their ranks. For now, Mishra looks like a certain starter but the management will have a sweet headache to pick one more from the rest. But in order to include a second spinner, a bit of tinkering needs to be done with their formation.

Weakness

Quinton de Kock, with the kind of form that he had been in, will prove to be irreplaceable for Daredevils right at the top of the order. De Kock’s destructiveness to go with JP Duminy’s calm presence out in the middle will be missed and now suddenly Daredevils’ top-four looks short of experience with both pulling out of the tournament. In the absence of these two, it is likely that at least three among Shreyas Iyer, Pant, Samson and Nair will be batting in the top four. They possess great talent and are among the best young batsmen in this country but sadly they couldn’t click in unison last season and would certainly not want a repeat of it this time around. The think-tank might want to throw in Sam Billings somewhere in that top four as well.

Opportunities

Considering the number of seam options they have, Daredevils can make use of their stock by playing on a surface that offers plenty of bounce and zip. Previously, Rajasthan Royals prepared a lively strip in Jaipur that stood out from the rest of the pitches in the IPL and made it a fortress, dismantling almost every team. If Daredevils can come up with something similar and unleash the likes of Rabada, Cummins, Morris and Shami, then they will have a great chance of blowing their opponents away at the Kotla.

Threats

With two key absentees already, Daredevils wouldn’t want to lose another batsman. They were criticised a lot for making too many changes to their lineup last season but may have to do something similar at least with the batting to ensure they don’t lose any more key players to fatigue. They have a few more fitness concerns to deal with as it is not clear yet when Mathews can join the squad. Anderson hasn’t bowled in a while since he returned after a back injury and it remains to be seen if he can be as effective as he was before. Their skipper Zaheer hasn’t played competitive cricket for almost a year and it remains to be seen what sort of an impact can he create when he steps out on the field again. He has a history of breaking down easily and if he fails to deliver, the management will have a problem choosing the next captain.

What the schedule holds

Among all teams, perhaps Daredevils have the best run-in. One of their home matches, which coincided with the municipal elections in Delhi, got rescheduled to May instead, which has ensured that Daredevils will be playing five out of their last six matches at home. If they can find form at their home venue in front of their own supporters, Daredevils will find it slightly easier than the rest to qualify for the playoffs. But it will test their endurance as well at the same time since they will be playing those six matches in a span of just 13 days.

Ideal playing XI: Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Karun Nair, Sam Billings, Sanju Samson (WK), Carlos Brathwaite, Chris Morris, Amit Mishra, Kagiso Rabada, Mohammad Shami, Zaheer Khan (C).

© Cricbuzz

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Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports

Source: http://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/93743/playoff-spot-top-priority-for-pace-heavy-daredevils

Zaheer happy playing sidekick to strong pace contingent

IPL 2017

Zaheer happy playing sidekick to strong pace contingent

Cricbuzz Staff • Last updated on Fri, 31 Mar, 2017, 09:15 PM

The Delhi Daredevils squad is replete with pacers including Morris (l), Rabada, Cummins & Shami. © BCCI

Despite not having played competitive cricket for close to a year, since featuring in the previous edition of the Indian Premier League, Delhi Daredevils skipper Zaheer Khan is confident that he can ease into his bowling role, albeit a supportive one.

Speaking to the media ahead of the 10th edition of the tournament, the 38-year-old left-arm seamer said he was up for the challenge. “It’s very difficult to not play any match and then to turn up here and play the whole season. I look at it as a challenge. I stick to my routines along with discussion I have had with my trainers and physios,” Zaheer said.

“The process remains the same. I picked up the ball around December, got into it slowly and here I am now, ready to take on another IPL season. Every time I get on the field, the excitement comes back. It’s the right dose of cricket for me at this stage of my career.”

The Delhi franchise has a host of options when it comes to the pace department, with the likes of Mohammed Shami, Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada part of the setup, along with allrounders like Chris Morris, Angelo Mathews and Carlos Brathwaite. Zaheer, who is pleased with his team’s quick-bowling arsenal, is happy to play second fiddle to them.

“I have supreme fast bowlers who will take the pressure off me. I’m not playing the lead role, but just the support role. I’m playing the role I enjoy the most. This is my way of giving back to the game,” he said.

A canny bowler during his India playing days, Zaheer is considered a master when it comes to bowling despite fitness limitations. The experienced pacer, who retired from international cricket in 2015, said that managing the workload was closely related to the bowling rhythm, and that the work hours don’t matter as long as the bowler in question understands those nuances.

“When I was playing, I preferred to play more and more. When you’re in rhythm, you can maintain that. You can maintain workloads at practice. Someone like Umesh, who has played all season, he isn’t going to realise when 20 overs are done. That’s the beauty of bowling fitness.

“With all the bowlers who’ve been playing Tests and some level of cricket, it will be easier in terms of bowling fitness. The more you bowl, the better you will get. I’ve always endorsed match practice is the best practice,” he said.

Delhi’s batting order though does not threaten to take the tournament by storm unlike their bowling, with key players like Quinton de Kock and JP Duminy missing from action due to varied reasons. Zaheer, however, is confident that the young Indian batsmen can deliver effectively.

“We’ve always believed in youngsters and the potential they have. If you look at last season’s squad, you’ve got someone like Karun Nair, who has a triple century at the Test level. Shreyas Iyer has made his mark, he’s part of the Test team. These youngsters are no longer youngsters, they’re seasoned campaigners now. That is the strength of DD this year.

“You’ve got an Indian batting line-up which is more experienced and know more about of their roles. The squad is settled. We’re sitting pretty despite JP and Quinton’s unavailability. If you look at all the squads, you will find players who are missing out because of international duties and injuries. We’re prepared for the uncertainties,” he added.

© Cricbuzz

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Courtesy: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports

Source: http://www.cricbuzz.com/cricket-news/93695/zaheer-happy-playing-sidekick-to-strong-pace-contingent