David Warner
Captain David Warner of the Delhi Capitals hits a four in the Tata Indian Premier League match against the Kolkata Knight Riders at the Arun Jaitley Stadium, Delhi, on April 20, 2023. Warner scored more freely and more quickly as he struck 57 to set up Delhi’s chase. Image Credit: Sportzpics for IPL

The Delhi Capitals won, finally. It wasn’t pretty. They huffed and puffed to their first win in IPL 2023 after losing their first five matches. Had the Kolkata Knight Riders scored 20 runs more, the result of Friday’s game at Delhi’s home ground of Arun Jaitley Stadium would have been different.

That would have been hard on the Delhi bowlers, led by veteran Ishant Sharma, who put forth a sterling display to curtail the Kolkata total to 127. Anrich Nortje from South Africa has been at his fiery best, and left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav too weighed in well. So while the bowlers put on their best show, the same cannot be said about the Delhi batters.

Captain David Warner returned to his free-scoring ways, and that should have inspired the rest of the Delhi batters. Prithvi Shaw and Mitchell Marsh continued their miserable form, and it was left to Axar Patel to steer Delhi through a minefield wrought by the Kolkata spinners.

How Ponting revamped Delhi squad

Five losses in a row are not easy. That calls for a stern examination and drastic changes. Delhi head coach Ricky Ponting rang a few changes but baulked away from making severe alterations to the team.

Shaw is struggling, and his struggles don’t help the team. So Delhi have to drop him till he rediscovers his scoring touch. Ponting and batting coach Shane Watson are huge admirers of Shaw’s talent. So am I and the Delhi supporters. But his barren spell is weighing down the team badly.

The same can be said of Marsh. The Australian powerhouse batter is a pale shadow of his ebullient self. He was caught on the long-off fence. Usually, that shot clears the boundary by a long way. Such things happen when a batter is searching for form.

Why Axar Patel should be promoted

Manish Pandey’s erratic scoring ways continue, and Delhi would love some consistency from him. Given his red-hot form, Axar should bat higher in the order. Maybe at No. 4. But the problem is the lack of a finisher. So the left-hander is forced to bat down the order to finish games like he did on Friday. Pushing him up the order would put more steel into the Delhi batting.

Ponting tried to bring some stability by adding Phil Salt, but the Englishman failed in his first outing. Hopefully, he will come good in the matches to come. Salt replaced Abhishek Porel, who had done an excellent job behind the stumps; his catch to dismiss Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma was superb. A pity he had to make way for Salt.

If the Salt experiment doesn’t work, Delhi could go back to the Rilee Rousouw option. The South African can open the batting and occupy the middle order as well. They also miss a power-hitter like Rovman Powell, whose incredible form last year boosted Delhi.

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The spin options are good. The recall of Ishant Sharma worked well, but that’s not a long-term solution. Delhi should also look at ways to include Lungi Ngidi: his high pace and death-over expertise could be handy.

Can Delhi make the playoffs? Certainly not, on the evidence of their displays so far. But they salvage their pride. For that, they have to make better utilisation of their resources. They have to find the winning combination.

Season 16 is close to halfway, and Delhi are still scrambling to find their best team. A playoff spot may be beyond them, but they can at least target a mid-table finish. Hopefully, the slender win against KKR will provide the thrust.