Dubai: A winning team, they say, is a happy team - and it’s captain cannot put a foot wrong. No prizes for guessing that one is talking about Delhi Capitals here who have now won four of their first five matches and look strong contenders to make it to the play-offs - unless there is a drastic dip in their performance graph from here onwards.
A lion’s share of the credit has to go to team’s think tank for the faith they had planned to show on the core Indian talent and ensuring the balance of the squad - which seems to have an answer for all occasions. A case in point is the leg spinner’s slot in the squad - the news of veteran leg spinner Amit Mishra’s injury was most unfortunate as his experience on the UAE wickets would have been invaluable, but their Plan B of Sandeep Lamichhane is also a quality wrist spinner and capable of delivering if given a chance.
I would like to bring in the captain’s contribution next and after watching Shreyas Iyer in charge for nearly two seasons now, would like to stick my neck out and say that he is India’s best bet as the future white ball captain. Ever since being thrust into captaincy midway the season in 2018 when Gautam Gambhir stepped down, the youngest captain in IPL has shown time and again that the extra responsibility has not affected his batting so far. This year, his ability to cement his No.4 position in India’s batting order has possibly given him more conviction in his thought process.
In Monday’s highly billed clash against Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore, Iyer first introduced senior spinner Ravi Ashwin in the second over of the powerplay and followed it up with the left-arm spinner Axar Patel in the very next - both moves paying rich dividends to put the illustrious batting line-up under pressure. Patel’s figures of 4-0-18-2 earned him the Man of the Match honours ahead of Kagiso Rabada, who finished with four for 24, but one needs the heart to bowl against the likes of Aaron Finch, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers even on a slow track.
Use of spinners
Granted, the job becomes easier when you have 196 on the board and a pace bowling attack of Rabada and the spot-on Anrich Nortje, but one has to have the ability to think to think on his feet in this format where experiements are the norm - and Iyer has shown a sense of purpose and thought behind each of his moves.
Since becoming the captain, the technically sound Iyer has scored 411 and 463, respectively, in 2018 and 2019 - showing that captaincy has not been a burden for him. This year, however, he has not been able to convert his starts into big ones so far except the blistering 88 not out off 38 balls against Kolkata Knight Riders at Sharjah.
Iyer, ever since becoming the captain, has had a strike-rate of 162 against pacers from over 16-20 in the IPL, while against spinners it climbs to 182. The numbers do point at someone who has the potential to become a great finisher - and this is what the team will be expecting from him in the closer finishes in the coming days.