Kolkata: Delhi batsman N Rana is clean bowled by Karnataka bowler A.Mithun (not in the picture) during Ranji Trophy match at Eden Garden in Kolkata on Thursday. PTI Photo by Swapan Mahapatra (PTI10_20_2016_000150B)
Delhi’s domestic cricket scene is in shambles right now with poor performances in the Ranji Trophy and the sudden retirement of Gautam Gambhir
Mohinder Amarnath, Virat Kohli, Gautam Gambhir , Virender Sehwag , Ashish Nehra – apart from being top performers for the Indian cricket team down the years, these names have another thing in common. They all hail from India’s capital, Delhi.
Delhi is one of the consistently top performing teams in the domestic circuit having won seven Ranji Trophy titles, two Irani trophies, one Vijay Hazare Trophy and one Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The team were the runners up in the last season of the Ranji Trophy, having lost in the finals to Vidarbha.
However, the 2018-19 season has been a rough start for the Delhi team. In the three matches, so far, the team has accumulated just four points, with two draws and a huge loss against Punjab, one of the traditionally weaker teams of the league.
In the match against Punjab, Delhi were bundled out for scores of 107 and 179, and almost lost by an innings. This was their worst result in the last five years.
Considered one of the favourites to win the Ranji Trophy, Delhi now stands third from bottom in the Group B of the Elite League – behind teams like Kerala and Punjab.
Here are some of the reasons why the team from the capital might be underperforming at the grandest domestic tournament in the country.
The captaincy confusion
Well before the start of the campaign, reigning Delhi captain Gautam Gambhir stepped down from the position of Delhi’s captain, as he eventually retired from all forms of cricket on Tuesday, December 8. In his place, the much younger all-rounder Nitish Rana was made the captain.
Gambhir, 37, who has over 15,000 first class runs in 197 matches has so much more experience than Rana, who has just played 27 first class matches.
The inexperience of Rana, especially as a captain, might be one of the major reasons why Delhi is underperforming.
In addition to this, Delhi has three captains in three formats. While Rana captains the 4-day side, the one day squad is helmed by Rishab Pant and the T20 squad is led by Pradeep Sangwan. Earlier, all the three formats used to be led by veteran southpaw Gambhir, as the team reached the finals of the Ranji Trophy, and also the Vijay Hazare trophy last season. So, not having one captain may be the reason for the failure.
Delhi were bundled out for scores less than 200 in both the innings against Punjab, even though they restricted Punjab to a modest score of 289. In the first innings the situation was even worse, as they were all out 108, their lowest total in the last decade.
The main reason for this might be the batting for Delhi has just not clicked. No Delhi batsman finds place in the top 50 run scorers in the Ranji Trophy this time around. Players from Plate League teams like Assam, Manipur, Mizoram and Jammu and Kashmir have found their place, but not a single player from the capital.
Hiten Dalal with 242 runs is Delhi’s highest run-getter this season, 463 runs behind the Ranji trophy’s highest run-getter, Milind Kumar of Sikkim.
Delhi’s average innings total is a meagre 244, with having lost all ten wickets four times out of the five innings they have played so far. This is one of the worst batting performances in the Ranji trophy this season.
Few players in national setup
At the international stage, barring captain Virat Kohli, there is no player who is a regular feature in the team, be it any format. The closest one can be said to be Rishab Pant. But seeing his performances in recent games, and the way that he has given his wicket away, his place in the national squad too seems doubtful. Ishant Sharma is an in-and-out feature in India’s test squad. Navdeep Saini, the pacer was selected recently in the squad but was not given a chance.
Other than these, there is not perhaps a single Delhi player who comes to mind. In the past, Delhi has given to Indian cricket some of the legends of the game in Sehwag, Gambhir and Amarnath.
However, this comes in contrast to a city which has top academies run by the likes of Madan Lal and Virender Sehwag – so why the city isn’t producing international quality players is a mystery. On the other hand, Mumbai, the other cricketing superpower other than Delhi, is producing one player after another, the latest in the line being young prodigy Prithvi Shaw.
Conditions back home
Feroz Shah Kotla has always been known to be one of the worst cricket pitches in the country. It is the only stadium in the world where matches had to be cancelled because of uneven bounce, that too on multiple occasions.
The uneven and poor pitch conditions have been at a high this time around, with the players failing to utilize home conditions. In addition to this, pollution too has played a huge factor, with players unable to breathe freely. Multiple players have reported to being sick, while players can be seen wearing masks on the field while playing.
But the season is still a long way to go, and Delhi can turn around. But it is getting increasingly difficult for the side to qualify for the knockout stage, with the other teams in the group racing ahead of them.
Add to that the sudden announcement of Gambhir retiring from the game. This not only weakens Delhi’s batting but also exposes the inexperience of the side. Can Delhi bounce back and be the cricketing giant it is known to be? Only time will tell.