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Can Yuvraj Singh resurrect Delhi Daredevils?

by Gaurav Sethi

The Delhi Daredevils should be made into a case study. Make that a nutcase study.
In IPL1, they had by far the best team going. Sehwag and Gambhir in their prime. Young, unblemished Dhawan, Tiwary and Karthik. Local boys Manhas and Bhatia, foreign hands McGrath and Vettori. That was 2008, and in their first game they smashed the Rajasthan Royals who went on to become the champions that year.
Since then they have gone on to dismantle their team every IPL. First they broke the Sehwag-Gambhir partnership on top - both Delhi boys, inseparable buddies, India openers. It may not be a stretch to say that David Warner's rise as a Test cricketer started with DD under Sehwag's wing.
Next, they didn't retain Gambhir - who went on to captain a dysfunctional franchise like the KKR to two championship titles. Instead, they stuck with Sehwag as skipper - a job he took to as a fish takes to riding a bicycle.
Baffling bids at the IPL auctions led to a dismal year - James Hopes and Venugopal Rao were their best batsmen.
A few years and dismantled teams later, they ended up with Mahela Jayawardene as skipper. Odd as Mahela wasn't a sure shot in the team and even sat out in a knockout game. This was further compounded by recruiting England-discard and lone-wolf, Kevin Pietersen (KP) - who was both rusty and recovering from injury. Once mended, he played to block one of the four overseas' player spots. The Delhi Daredevils rose to the bottom of the table again.
Miraculously, they did this with coach Kirsten at the helm.
But all this pales in comparison to their unhealthy Ross Taylor fixation. After a torrid season, DD dumped him only to buy him back again. The results weren't any different but Taylor continued to play match after match - was it a desperate attempt to get some return on investment?
When it comes to wacky picks at the IPL Auction, DD is second to none. Collingwood, Agarkar, Botha, Irfan Pathan, Ross Taylor again, ROFL Merwe, KP, Murali Vijay, Rahul Sharma and Wayne Parnell, Saurabh Tiwary, Owais Shah, Shoaib Malik, Gulam Bodi, Venugopal Rao, Jesse Ryder (withdrawn), Sunny Gupta (to open the bowling versus the CSK in a knockout game), Sridharan Sriram, Zaheer Khan (in 2015).
There is a method to DD's madness - their ideal pick has to be burnt-out/injured/out-of-form/dropped/discarded/over-the-hill/unknown/not a T20 specialist/not considered by CSK/not a national hero.
When you consider this, picking Yuvraj Singh could be their best move in years. After Sehwag, they haven't had a compelling Indian star, that's like saying, they haven't had a face.
Will Yuvraj score match winning runs? Debatable, but going by past seasons, doubtful too. Will he lead the side? Unlikely, he hasn't shown any such qualities before. Will the crowds line up to watch him? Yes goddammit, he's Yuvi.
Yuvi's work will start way before the season - he will be on every brand tie-up that the DD bags - largely because of him. On either side of him will be, wait, let's see, umm, maybe more Yuvis. Somewhere on the side will be Zaks, Mathews, Duminy, Tiwary, maybe even de Kock.
Yes, that's how badly the Delhi Daredevils need Yuvraj Singh. For Delhi and India's IPL going janta, it's not about cricketers - it's about the stars. Saurabh Tiwary, Jayant Yadav or Kedhar Jadhav are not stars yet. Neither is Manoj Tiwary. Nor Mayank Agarwal. No, not Amit Mishra either. And chances are they don't know who Shreyas Iyer is yet.
They won't make the trip to the Kotla to watch Nathan Coulter Nile or Angelo Mathews. They will roar just to see Yuvi hurl himself at the ball at point. They will wait for that six - one of those six sixes, each one is etched deep in their heads - will it be flicked off his pads into the short square leg boundary? Or cut with his broad sword over deep point? Or dismissed over long on just like that?
Yeah, they will come for that. Yuvi gives them that. It's called hope. Rockstars do that to people. Even better when they can play a little.

Come home, Yuvi. I'll make the trip too. And if you lead the DD across the line, it'll be just like that special day when Viru did. That's good enough for me, and I suspect for all those screeching kids with their mummies and daddies watching their first IPL game.

First published in daily O

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