Daredevils done in by inexperience and inconsistency
Where they finished
Sixth for the second season in a row, with six wins and eight losses.
Things looked dandy for Delhi Daredevils when Pat Cummins, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Zaheer Khan and Mohammed Shami ran in and hit the pitch hard with the new ball. The Daredevils seamers were the most effective in the Powerplay, taking 18 wickets at an average of 29 - the best among all teams in the league stage.
Rishabh Pant, who hammered 49 sixes in 12 innings in the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy, went on a six-hitting spree in the IPL as well. He hit 24 sixes in 14 innings, and only Glenn Maxwell had struck more. Nine out of Pant's 24 sixes came in a successful chase of 209 against Gujarat Lions.
Pant features here as well, which encapsulates Daredevils' hit-or-miss campaign. He made three ducks - the joint most by a player this season - and three single-digit scores; five such scores contributed to defeats.
Daredevils were particularly poor with the bat between overs six and 15. They played out 286 dots in the middle overs - the most by any team - while also losing 39 wickets, again the joint most by any team.
Bizarre tactics, too, cost Daredevils. For starters, they picked only one frontline batsman in Ankit Bawne in the auction in February. Injuries and the lack of back-up batsmen meant Daredevils had to persist with out-of-form batsmen or make do with allrounders .
Their best striker, Morris, could have added more depth to the batting had Daredevils used him better. He had the second-best strike rate (168.09) among Daredevils' players, just behind Pant (170.45), but faced only 94 balls. Six other batsmen in the Daredevils line-up faced more balls than Morris. There was, perhaps, a case for the management to bump Morris up the order, but he batted in the top five only once in eight innings.
Given that Zaheer Khan had not played a single competitive match between the last IPL and this one, his fitness was always going to be a major worry. Zaheer missed three matches because of injury, and with Angelo Mathews also just returning from injury and searching for form, Daredevils did not have an experienced hand to show them the way. Instead, Karun Nair, who made only one fifty-plus score across formats since his triple-hundred in the Chennai Test against England last year, stood-in as captain.
Daredevils were the only side to be bowled out under 70 on two occasions this year. Right after the sensational chase against Gujarat Lions, they careened to 66 all out against Mumbai Indians - their lowest total in the IPL.
The missing ingredient
Experience. Daredevils' top four, for all their talent, was the least experienced in the league. This, perhaps, explained why they could not manipulate the middle overs and failed to close out tight games.
Out of their control
Before the start of the season, Zaheer said Daredevils were sitting pretty despite the unavailability of Quinton de Kock (injured) and JP Duminy (personal reasons) for the entire season. But, the absence of the South African pair hit them hard as the league progressed. Zaheer and Corey Anderson also suffered injuries towards the end of the league stage, which forced the management to shake things up further.
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo