Eric Simons, the Delhi Daredevils coach, has defended the decision to leave out Morne Morkel for their knockout clash against Chennai Super Kings, saying it was necessitated to maintain the balance of playing six batsmen, four bowlers and an allrounder. Daredevils were forced to replace their injured allrounder Irfan Pathan, but instead of swapping him for an Indian bowler, they brought in the West Indies allrounder Andre Russell. That meant one of the four foreigners had to make way, hence Morkel was benched.
The decision was puzzling, considering Morkel has been their best bowler and held the Purple Cap for the most wickets (25) in the tournament. With another slot available, Daredevils picked the little-known Tamil Nadu offspinner Sunny Gupta over the left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, who had impressed in the tournament earlier. The move backfired as Gupta leaked 47 off three overs as Super Kings blazed 222 to set up their 86-run win.
"Irfan was pivotal to our team. When you lose Irfan you have to find the right balance," Simons said. "We spend hours talking about these things - do you bring in Andre Russell, do you play just six batters? It's dangerous to sit in a situation and completely judge on hindsight.
"He (Russell) gave 30 in four overs, scored 16, could have had a catch taken. He made a good contribution. The nature of the IPL is trying to find the right balance. The direct replacement for Irfan was Russell but unfortunately that meant that Morne missed out."
Morkel said the plan was to beef up their spin attack. "Taking the pace off the ball was the key here, so they went with spinners," Morkel told iplt20.com. "Umesh [Yadav] and Varun [Aaron] bowled well. But unfortunately, we didn't win."
Simons admitted that playing a debutant, Gupta, in such a crucial match was a risk, but the decision was based on Super Kings' batting composition.
"Sunny was a risk. They (Super Kings) are a well-balanced side with four left-handers and four right-handers and we had to play someone who takes the ball away (from the left-handers)," Simons said. "We've been very successful chasing. Had we restricted them to 180 we would have got it."
Simons gave credit to Super Kings, saying the better-balanced side won. "They sneaked into the playoffs by probably their own admission. They're so well balanced. They started to come together from the playoffs and that's the sign of champions. M Vijay (who scored 113) played an incredible innings."
Daredevils held the pole position in the points table for most of the tournament but stumbled in the playoffs, losing to Kolkata Knight Riders and now Super Kings. Simons said there were plenty of positives, particularly in the bowling and praised two uncapped Indian spinners, Pawan Negi and Nadeem.
"Negi did nicely, Nadeem did well. In that aspect we have moved well. I'm actually quite happy with the way Umesh has bowled. Morne as moved on as a Twenty20 bowler."