Daredevils find solace in incremental gains
Ahead of IPL 2015, Delhi Daredevils had more than one challenge confronting them. Firstly, they had to up their game on the field. After two consecutive years of finishing last, Delhi Daredevils' big buys had misfired in 2014. Secondly, with the team not being taken seriously enough as a championship contender, their profile needed a boost.
The owners decided to do something about it and made a statement of intent four months ahead of IPL 2015 by offloading 13 players, including Kevin Pietersen, Ross Taylor, Dinesh Karthik and M Vijay.
With their purse fattened they splurged money on Yuvraj Singh, the costliest buy in the auction at Rs 16 crore, as much to strengthen their squad as to attract advertisers, perhaps more of the latter than the former. There were other big investments in the form of Angelo Mathews (Rs 7.5 crore), Zaheer Khan (Rs 4 crore), Amit Mishra (Rs 3.5 crore), Shreyas Iyer (Rs 2.6 crore) and Gurinder Sandhu (Rs 1.7 crore).
As Daredevils' campaign winds down, they will perhaps have mixed feelings. If they were to strictly go by the bottomline - Daredevils will finish seventh - then things haven't improved a great deal.
But a closer look would reveal that they have made incremental gains to their performances and, with a bit of luck, could have been placed higher. What also hurt them was their inability to string together consistently good performances, their graph an alternating pattern of wins and losses. Captain JP Duminy conceded that his team fell short when it came to closing out games.
Going into the season, Daredevils had an embarrassing record to set straight, that of losing nine IPL matches in a row, and two last-ball defeats, against Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, made it 11 on the trot. The long-awaited win finally came against Kings XI Punjab, with Mayank Agarwal and Yuvraj Singh scoring fifties. They followed it up with a four-run win over Sunrisers Hyderabad courtesy Duminy's all-round performance. That was the only instance of Daredevils winning two consecutive games.
At the end of eight games, Daredevils, after crushing Kings XI Punjab by nine wickets, had won four and lost as many. They were in with a decent shout of qualifying for the playoffs at that point, but then went off the boil, losing four games in a row. Daredevils also suffered a 10-wicket defeat at the hands of Royal Challengers Bangalore after being bowled out for 95.
Top of the class
When Shreyas Iyer was signed for Rs 2.6 crore, there was disbelief and curiosity in equal measure. Iyer, Mumbai's highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy, was an investment that appeared to appreciate as the season went on. One of the best young players of IPL 2015, Iyer, 20, is comfortably the leading run-getter for Daredevils with 419 runs* at an average of 34.91, including four fifties.
Despite the impressive numbers, Iyer admitted his preparation wasn't ideal ahead of the IPL. "I wasn't prepared as I didn't know where I'll bat," Iyer told ESPNcricinfo. "The preparation was not the best but I took the confidence of a good Ranji season."
At the other end of the spectrum is Yuvraj Singh, who didn't do much justice to his price tag. He managed 237 runs at 19.75 and didn't do much with the ball either.
Tip for 2016
Daredevils have in the past been guilty of changing the core of their team too often. This time, as Duminy said, Daredevils are on the "right track", and have the building blocks in place for next year. If they can ensure continuity and put together some consistent performances, the results might not remain elusive for too long.
Statistics updated till May 16
Arun Venugopal is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo