Delhi Daredevils v Chennai Super Kings, IPL 2012, Chennai May 25, 2012

The madness of benching Morne Morkel

To make up for Irfan Pathan's absence, Delhi Daredevils made two changes, one of which was leaving out Morne Morkel. And that made a significant difference

In the end, the blow that had the most telling impact on the second qualifier was struck by Jacques Kallis.

Three days ago, in the first qualifier between Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils, Kallis drove a ball hard back at Irfan Pathan, who stuck out his right hand and tried to catch it. The blow cut Irfan's hand severely and though he completed his spell and batted in that match - which Knight Riders won to make the final - the Daredevils management decided to leave him out of the knockout clash against Chennai Super Kings. Irfan's absence threw Daredevils' team composition into disarray.

To fill the allrounder's slot at No. 7, and maintain the balance of six batsmen, one allrounder and four bowlers, Daredevils brought Andre Russell into the team. Had they played a specialist bowler instead, the tail would have been five batsmen long. To include Russell, however, they had to leave out one of the overseas players that played in the loss to Knight Riders - David Warner, Mahela Jayawardene, Ross Taylor or Morne Morkel.

They chose to bench Morkel - IPL 2012's highest wicket-taker, with 25 scalps at an average of 18 and economy of seven per over. Morkel, the bowler who had inspired the season's most improbable victory by conceding two runs in the penultimate over of the defence against Rajasthan Royals. Despite having three leading overseas batsmen and Virender Sehwag, Daredevils decided they needed the insurance of Russell's batting.

The more baffling decision, if such a thing were possible, was the replacement for Morkel. Instead of picking the proven left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem - unless he was not fit - or the experienced Ajit Agarkar, Daredevils brought in Sunny Gupta. Sunny Who? An offspinner who had never played in the IPL before; they gave him the first over as well.

It started badly, and never improved. Murali Vijay danced down the pitch to Gupta's first ball, and hit him to the long-off boundary. Agarkar's economy this IPL has been poor - 9.34 - but he'd have had to experience the most horrendous day to do worse than Gupta's 15.66 in three overs. While Russell had satisfactory figures of 0 for 30 in four overs, Daredevils' fifth bowler - three overs from Gupta and one from Sehwag - went for 0 for 68. Their fourth bowler, Varun Aaron, went for 2 for 63.

In the only other match Morkel missed in this IPL, Daredevils conceded more than 200 against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Today they conceded 222, the highest total of the season.

"Unluckily, Irfan got injured so we had to change the combination," Sehwag said after the defeat. "It was difficult to pick four foreigners, but we backed Russell to do the job. But yes we missed Morne Morkel."

Super Kings, on the other hand, went into the game with no injury worries and clarity of selection. Their side was unchanged from the one that swatted Mumbai Indians aside. And now, after M Vijay's 51-ball century, all of their batsmen have found some sort of form. Ironically, Dhoni also said he would have chased had Sehwag not won the toss, but was happy to have been given first use of a batting-friendly pitch.

"I think it was a very good wicket to bat on initially, second half I don't think it was 100% same," Dhoni said. "It changed a bit but it was not a very bad wicket … It was a wicket where 180-odd runs or 170-odd runs were chaseable, but 40-plus runs in a T20 game becomes very difficult to chase.

"I thought personally they had the line-up who could do that, but it is not an easy job. You have to keep hitting and you have to survive, that is a difficult task."

Daredevils did not threaten the target at all, and the tactic of opening with Jayawardene and dropping Sehwag to No. 3 did not pay off entirely. The most crucial tactical ground, however, had been conceded before the coin was tossed.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JustOUT on May 26, 2012, 16:15 GMT

    Not interested in all these IPL things.. but interested in reading on Morkel has bowled brilliantly through out IPL. It is really a good news as a SA supporter waiting for the England test series. Well done Morkel.. keep up the same form for the RED BALL.

  • Rahul on May 26, 2012, 15:53 GMT

    I am sick of seeing this yellow colour jersey winning again and again first it was austrailia who seemed to be winning everything which came there way..know its is csk can't watch tommo final as they will easily tame kkr...

  • Mandar on May 26, 2012, 13:40 GMT

    Some people on this forum are saying how much difference would having Morkel have done to Delhi..may be he would have saved just 30 runs but Delhi would have still lost. But here's my point, Morkel is Delhi's highest wicket taker and he is a wicket taking bowler. If DD had included Morkel in the team and he had bowled first over in place of Gupta then things would have been different because Vijay was not in great form at all..he would have either got Vijay out or at least not allowed Vijay to score this freely..this would have made huge impact.When you go into such an important match you should let your best players have a go at opposition.Russell is an average player and not a world class allrounder.Including him in the team in place of Morkel did not make much sense and what was even worse was allowing Gupta to play in semifinals when he hadn't played at all in IPL. I am not saying these were the only reasons DD lost but these bad decisions took away advantage from them.

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2012, 13:20 GMT

    The biggest mistake any captain can make is by changing the winning combination in crucial matches. It appeared that Virender Sehwag did not learn any lessons from last defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders. he repeated the same mistakes with some modifications in it against CSK

  • indian on May 26, 2012, 13:04 GMT

    I always had few doubts about Sehwag and Bajji for a captaincy role, why team management preferred some times GAUTi or raina and now little Kohli... ha ha ha i got all the answers after 4th test in AUS and now in both playoffs.. so all the great players can't be a great leaders, hats off to MSD for making everything possible from impossibles..champions are not born different they do things different like MSD Goodluck viru with ur future IPL

  • Nilantha on May 26, 2012, 12:19 GMT

    why isnt anyone mentioned the baltantly obviuos choice of Kohli for the next Indian captain?Is there something in India the rest of us dont know about??btw that is not me saying that MSD should be removed as i rate him as a captain and he certainly is "mr Cool" in terms of managing tight situations...

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2012, 12:13 GMT

    they showed their timidity. The selection should have been Morne first and then the others.Its seldom that you need so many batsmen in t20.But DD were cowards and had to suffer for it.

  • v on May 26, 2012, 12:06 GMT

    Another stupidity was opening with Sunny Gupta. The first over set the tone of the match. Who is sunny gupta? A Tamil Nadu player. Who hit the first over for 12 runs, Murali Vijay, surprise, another Tamil Nadu player who would have played this uncapped spinner a million times in nets. This over really would have given Vijay the freedom to open himself up for a century. Kudos Vijay.

  • Natarajan on May 26, 2012, 12:04 GMT

    I don't understand the fuss about CSK making it to playoffs and some people terming it as 'backdoor' entry. Just because they finished their matches first doesn't mean what happened later on was their good luck. If thye had played the last match, we would have called them lucky to have known what is needed. People got to be a little sensible here - RCB could not beat DC because the are too dependent on Gayle and on that day Steyn bettered them. They lost so they are out. RR was a bad team always and they should have been out of contest much earlier. CSK went into playoffs purely by merits (any other team with more points? or, was there a match abandoned in the last phase that helped them get through?). Every player in the team stod up when needed unlike DD or KKR or RCB or MI. Teams were lucky in the league phase that only one or two stood up for CSK in a match. Now that everybody in the team is contributing (as is CSK known for) they are looking invincible.

  • Congenial on May 26, 2012, 11:34 GMT

    Sachin & Sehwag are brilliant batsmen on their day. At least Sachin knows that he can't captain a side so he steps aside and gives it to someone, but why Sehwag doesn't do that? Ego? Just because you are a very good batsman doesn't mean you can lead the side successfully. Loosing is okay in any sport, but loosing it even before you take the field is very bad. No good for the team, fans or the game.

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