Currently the most successful former Delhi Daredevils (hereafter referred to as DD) player has to be Tejashwi Yadav, a Ranji Trophy player who was in the DD team for 4 years even though he did not get a game. He is presently Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar at the young age of 26, maybe the youngest ever to hold such a position.
Tejaswi’s success has however not rubbed off on his former team. DD has always been an underachiever and despite always having awesome potential and terrific allround strength have somehow not done well with only 2 semi final spots in 8 years.
However recently with Rahul Dravid taking over as Mentor, there seems to be a resurgence.
Let us examine what was going wrong earlier and what has changed and looks promising now after the Wall has taken over.
Upheavals and Changes
The only constant in the team was the owner, GMR. Otherwise, the team saw many upheavals including sponsors, players and captains. Sehwag was their first captain, followed by Gambhir then back to Sehwag and later Mahela Jayawardhene and Kevin Pietersen. The team too saw too many changes.
A settled captain and team would surely have helped.
Inability to retain star players
Glen Mcgrath, ABD, Dhawan, Gambhir, Dirk Nannes, David Warner, Nehra, Aaron Finch, Morne Morkel, Glenn Maxwell, KP, Andre Russell , Ross Taylor. All these are star players who were part of the DD team earlier but did not continue with the franchisee.
Surely something is wrong somewhere if so many great players will go on to play for other teams.
Sad case of Glenn Mcgrath
Mcgrath , an all time great had a 3 year contract with DD. The 1st year in IPL he was their most economical bowler but sadly the next year he was on the bench. Dirk Nannes was preferred over him and Mcgrath sat out as Indian bowlers Nehra, Sangwan and Salvi were chosen to complement Nannes. A disappointed Macgrath said that he would not return for the 3rd season. Later the franchisee bought out his 350000$ contract.
A legend surely deserved better?
Overall result was that a team of many superstars always fell woefully short out there in the middle.
However, after Dravid has taken over as team mentor, the team’s performance suddenly seems to have improved and they look like they will make an impression in this tournament and future IPL’s too.
Here is why i think the transformation has taken place.
Belief in youth
Dravid recognised that IPL ultimately needs 7 Indians in the playing 11 and only 4 foreign stars, He therefore has invested in Indian youth. Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson, Mayank Agarwal, Karun Nair and Rishabh Pant are 5 players who can serve the team well and can continue in future too for the franchisee. Two others Akhil Herwadkar and Mahipal Lomror are waiting too to make a mark.
Combination of youth and experience
Though the team seems like an Indian Under 25 team, Dravid has taken care to ensure some experienced stars as well such as Duminy, Imran Tahir, Amit Mishra, Chris Morris, Mohd Shami and Quentin de Kock.
Dravid as a mentor encourages his players. Shreyas Iyer did not do well but Dravid instead of blaming him in an interview chose to focus on his two successful Ranji seasons. The players are told to enjoy themselves and play their natural game.
Zaheer as Captain
Zaheer as a captain is another Captain Cool. The arguably 2nd best quick bowler in Indian history after Kapil Dev is enjoying the confidence shown in him and he too helps Dravid in nurturing and mentoring the youngsters.
Competent support staff
Zubin Bharucha as technical director has the role of research, planning, identification and talent development. Dravid has chosen him as the ex Mumbai opener had done the same role well in RR. As coach, Paddy Upton has been chosen as apart from being a good physical trainer with terrific credentials he is a leadership coach as well and focuses on mental aspects as well. The team also has competent batting coaches in Praveen Amre and an excellent bowling consultant in TA Shekhar.
Willingness to Experiment, recognition that no man is indispensable
It is clear to all that no one is indispensable and team needs will be more important as regards selection. For instance a matchwinner Braithwaite was on the bench the very match after a match-winning performance as conditions suited spinners better. Sreyas Iyer too was dropped after a couple of poor performances.
Elevating Pant to open the innings, including Sam Billings in the squad and most importantly picking the best young Indian talent are small but extremely significant steps taken by Dravid. So also taking a daring step to rest Zak and best batsman De Kock. An occasional loss may happen, but key players will be fit in business end of the tournament.
Finally, one important thought comes to mind.
Will Dravid be around for a long time
No idea. When asked how long his contract was, the Wall just smiled. However the CEO Mr Hemant Dua took the mike and said that it is known Dravid likes to play a long innings and they hoped he does so.
DD Fans will hope so too.