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Are Daredevils jinxed?

Gautam Gambhir’s decision to quit the captaincy will not improve Delhi IPL team’s chances of gaining some glory, going by the bad decisions that have stymied its chances of playing a winning game

What unites Virender Sehwag, AB de Villiers, Yuvraj Singh, Kevin Pietersen, David Warner or Gautam Gambhir, apart from the fact that they are all modern cricket’s greats?
The answer automatically takes you to the journey of Delhi Daredevils, one of the biggest flop outfits in the history of Indian Premier League. And when on Wednesday, Gambhir decided to quit captaincy yet again — after his prior misadventure with the same franchise in 2010 — failure to change the fortunes of the team, a debate has once again started: “What next for this jinxed side?”
And not to forget that all these big names made a huge difference to other teams, as and when they decided to move out of the clutches of Daredevils for greener pastures.
In the last 11 seasons, including the ongoing 2018, a lot of surprises struck this richest cricket league. To start with, a team like Rajasthan Royals which spent the least from its pocket to buy players also went on to win the inaugural edition. Or Mumbai Indians went on to win the championship after as many as six initial setbacks.
But Delhi has remained as the only team (except for a few flashes in between) which has not surprised its fans with any kind of Daredevilry.
Lack of clarity
There is no clarity over what ails this franchise. But one thing which has puzzled every cricket fan in the last decade or so is the lack of logic displayed by team owners.
Unlike Royal Challengers Bangalore, which has also failed to win even a single edition of IPL but has shown faith in most of the star faces, Daredevils’ top management has not shown any faith in any of faces identified with the capital city. Be it a hard-hitter like Sehwag or a gritty competitor like Gambhir, Daredevils has never tried to build any intimate professional relationship with them.
Season after season, Daredevils have only hogged news headlines for dumping all its players than retaining or embracing a big local face. And that’s probably the biggest factor why Virat Kohli-led RCB is greeted with louder cheers than Daredevils at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground here.
On any given match day, there are more opponents’ T-shirts on display than the home team. To say the least, the fan base hardly exists in Delhi for Daredevils. Whereas, almost all other franchises have managed to build a strong fan base in their respective territories.
RCB rides on its passionate fan base, while Kings XI Punjab is identified with its owner and film star Preity Zinta. Even Delhi’s most famous son, Virender Sehwag, is now the most valuable asset of Kings XI as mentor cum coach. And his presence can be felt in terms of results.
Forget teams like Mumbai Indians or Chennai Super Kings which are symbolic with their respective city cultures, even part-time teams like Rising Pune Supergiant and Gujarat Lions were successful in striking a chord with the respective cities in just two years.
Past imperfect, future tense
To track Daredevils’ journey so far, one has to go back to the first season when Sehwag and Gambhir — two of the biggest names to emerge from Delhi — were clubbed together in search of big results.
If Sehwag led well for the first year, then Gambhir was given captaincy next time as the former wanted to focus on his batting. The comedy of errors began before the 2011 season, when team management let Gambhir be taken away by Shah Rukh Khan-owned Kolkata Knight Riders. And not to forget that the same season also saw Delhi losing De Villiers and Daniel Vettori to RCB.
This was the beginning of a long nightmare which refuses to end.
And the team management can’t blame anyone else for it. Instead of spending money wisely on right choices, Daredevils decided to go bankrupt chasing Yuvraj Singh. The Rs 16 crore spent on Yuvraj failed to serve any purpose as he was released the very next year.
The same Yuvraj contributed immensely and won the title with Sunrisers Hyderabad two years later.
Then came Dinesh Karthik in Daredevils’ radar.
Again, a whopping Rs 12.5 crore were spend on this failed experiment. Pawan Negi’s Rs 8-plus crore misadventure forced this outfit to go back to the drawing board and rethink its strategy for the future.
The only good thing that Daredevils management has done in the last two years is to hand over the command of youngsters to a purist coach like Rahul Dravid. The emphasis of Dravid during his two-year tenure was to build the team for the future. Now that he has parted ways because of national responsibilities, bringing in another former Australian great Ricky Ponting has been seen like a desperate attempt to somehow finish amongst the top four.
Money wasted
In fact, the biggest miscalculation on part of the IPL history so far was when Pawan Negi was made a million-dollar baby in the 2016 edition.
Though there were conspiracy theories doing the rounds then how this unknown and not- so-talented Delhi boy was picked for such a whopping price and who were all behind this blunder, the fact remains that Negi failed miserably to deliver at this stage, despite such a big price tag.
He could only manage a total of 57 runs from eight outings before being booted out, and at a strike rate of below 100, which again is not acceptable in T20. His part-time spin also became pain for his team as his nine overs in the entire season cost his team 84 with just one wicket to showcase.
But like many other players, Negi regained his form and touch only after shifting base from Delhi.
Fault in numbers!
Despite every attempt to somehow improve the rankings, Delhi’s outfit could only manage fourth position once, last year.
In fact, Daredevils is the only team in this eight-team league which has finished last four times out of total 10. Once they finished second last, while twice they were third to last.
Gambhir’s decision to put in his papers is not going to stop this slide. This ailment is old and needed to be treated with care and passion. Because even when Gambhir was out of the picture, this team finished last thrice in seven seasons. The 87 losses from 142 matches in 11 years is enough to tell the story inside the dressing room.
The big question now everyone inside Kotla premises has been asking… “Is Shreyas Iyer the right choice or just another flop in the line of disasters?”