Reflecting on Delhi Capitals' run to the IPL playoffs this season, Shreyas Iyer called it a "dream season" for the side, one he expects his team to build on next year. Last season, Capitals, who had played as Delhi Daredevils, had finished last on the table with only five wins. This season, apart from changes in name and ownership, and the addition of Sourav Ganguly to the management, Capitals ended the league stage with 18 points, just as many as finalists Mumbai Indian and Chennai Super Kings managed. On Friday, the Delhi franchise were on the cusp of their first ever IPL final, but fell short to a vastly experienced Chennai Super Kings in the second qualifier.
"It's been a dream season for us and it's just the start," Iyer told the host broadcaster after the match. "We've got a lot more to come next season and yes, we have gelled as a team and we've found the pace and now it's time to grow from here on. I am really of proud the way [Capitals] played this season. Last season was really disappointing for us and the way we came out this year, everybody took that initiative and responsibility till this game."
Capitals needed to pull off their third consecutive win in seven days to make the final, but couldn't respond adequately as Super Kings put a young team under pressure multiple times in their pursuit of an eighth IPL final appearance. Capitals were restricted to 147 and Iyer later admitted their plans had not been up to scratch.
"At the end of the day, it's a T20 game," he said. "You can't restrict your strokes. We back our instincts as players. The way we got starts, we needed someone to take on that charge and start hitting boundaries and sixes so that we can get on top of their bowlers.
"Chennai have got experienced players in their side. They have been playing for many years. They knew how the wicket played in the second innings. Also, they made a good decision fielding first. As I said, we were a little bit bad in planning out the innings. We should have been little responsible and taken the team through to the last few overs and set it for the hard-hitters at the end."
Capitals promoted Colin Munro up to No. 3 in the second qualifier after the batsman had struggled against spin in the eliminator on Wednesday. One of the reasons for this, Iyer said, was a gamble on Super Kings bowling an extra over of Shardul Thakur in that period. This didn't materialise and the resulting change in batting order meant a reasonably successful top four was disrupted. Rishabh Pant batted at No. 5 and Iyer himself dropped to No 4, eventually falling while trying to slog Imran Tahir over midwicket.
"I thought that if I play few balls and take time, it doesn't matter because I can capitalize later on. And I have done that in the past. I was taking my time and I thought Imran's over was to go for," Iyer said. "It was right in the slot but I just mistimed it and we started losing wickets from there again. So it was a miscalculation which happened and it was a bad day for us."
At 24, this was Iyer's second full season as captain of a team that currently has 14 of their 24 players under the age of 26. Iyer said the presence of Ricky Ponting alongside him for a second straight season, and the subsequent addition of Ganguly to the leadership did wonders for the team.
"[Ponting]'s definitely a legend. Whenever he talks in the dressing room, no one has to talk after that. Because if someone does that, it's of no use. The way he talks, it's just like a song or a rap. He's got that flow and he's been doing it for 20 years. As youngsters, we are really happy and lucky to have him as our coach. The positivity that he spreads, the freedom that he gives to every player is something out of the box. That's what we need as youngsters. We need someone to support us and back us. That's what we get from Ricky."
What Capitals have also got from Ponting this season is a public bashing of the pitch at their home ground, Feroz Shah Kotla, which the team coach called "by far and away the worst" after a defeat to Sunrisers Hyderabad early in the season. Capitals lost three of their seven home games on a surface that didn't suit their free-flowing batsmen. In hindsight, had those results been different, it may have given the team the luxury of top-two finish, boosting their prospects of making the final. Iyer said it was something to think about before the next season.
"It's something to think about, the home games especially we didn't win that many matches," Iyer said. "But can't really complain about the wickets. We have played a lot of our games on slow wickets, we've been practicing a lot, even the wickets we practice on in Delhi aren't that safe for the batsmen because they have uneven bounce."