IPL 2023: Where did things sour for the Delhi Capitals after four seasons?

There is certainly more to it than the unfortunate absence of captain Rishabh Pant, who had been a rock in their batting line-up for the last few years

The Delhi Capitals (photo courtesy @akshar2026/Twitter)
The Delhi Capitals (photo courtesy @akshar2026/Twitter)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

From being labelled as one of the top four contenders for the Indian Premier League crown the last four years, it has been quite a free fall for the Delhi Capitals this season.

Not only were they the first team to be officially eliminated from a shot at qualifying, but the lacklustre nature of their performance will also have the team management scurrying back to the drawing board.

With two wins from eight games so far, they are languishing at the bottom of the table and captain David Warner certainly has his job cut out for him, with having to rally a demoralised unit against the gung-ho Gujarat Titans in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. A few full points from here on out will lift the morale somewhat, but there is no escaping the fact that this has been their worst performance since the rebranding in 2019.

Where did it all go wrong for Warner's men? There is certainly more to it than the unfortunate absence of captain Rishabh Pant, who had been a rock for their batting line-up for the last few years—having contributed 2838 runs with 15 fifties and a strike rate of 150-plus to the blue shirts.

Much of the Capitals' consistent showing in the last few years could be attributed to their core Indian strength in the batting line-up—the three young Turks Pant, Prithvi Shaw and former captain Shreyas Iyer, along with senior pro Shikhar Dhawan. They could not find the right replacements, and Shaw’s awful form right through the season turned out to be a major headache for the franchise.

It was a collective batting failure alright, barring the odd match, but the lack of a decent start in the powerplays certainly put pressure on the doubtful middle order. In six games, Shaw looked woefully out of form and scratched together 47 runs—forcing chief coach Ricky Ponting to drop him for the last few games.

While Warner was under fire for his strike rate, the former IPL-winning captain (while with the Sunrisers Hyderabad) could hardly be blamed for trying to balance between attacking and trying to anchor the innings.

They have three all-rounders on their roster, including the in-form Axar Patel, Mitch Marsh and Lalit Yadav—but none barring Patel was able to deliver in the crucial moments.

It was intriguing to see that despite the presence of three of the legends of the game in the dugout—Ponting, director Sourav Ganguly and coach Shane Watson—the Capitals failed to zero in on the right playing eleven. The choice of new-ball bowlers also left many questions unanswered, given the likes of senior pro Ishant Sharma, Lungi Ngidi, Chetan Sakariya and Kamlesh Nagarkoti were left sitting out several games together.

A word here on the somewhat demoralising statement from Parth Jindal, co-owner of the franchise, early on in the season: As the team slumped to their third straight loss in the first week of April, Jindal tweeted about there "not being enough intent" in their batting. It's anybody's guess whether such statements from the top, when the going is not good, help the cause.

 All the Capitals can hope at this stage is to play for pride, finish the season on a high and then chase the elusive title all over again! 

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