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Shaw’s form, first-choice fudge: Where has Delhi Capitals’ IPL 2023 campaign gone wrong?

Shaw's Form, First-Choice Fudge: Where Has Delhi Capitals' IPL 2023 Campaign Gone Wrong?
by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

After Delhi Capitals slumped to their fifth successive defeat in the 2023 IPL, Sarah Waris looks at what’s going wrong for the franchise.

Delhi were dealt an early blow long before the edition began after it became evident that skipper Rishabh Pant would be out of action for most of 2023 following a car accident late in December. The experienced David Warner was named the skipper in his absence.

After such a poor start to the tournament, Delhi’s quest for their first IPL title looks set to go on for at least another year as they grapple with a plethora of issues.


David Warner’s poor form

The left-hander has been struggling for rhythm in the last few months, and his por form has left a question mark over his place for the Ashes later this year. Though Warner has been amongst the runs – he has 228 runs after five games and is currently second in the Orange Cap list – his strike rate highlights his woes.

Warner has three fifties thus far, but has made his runs at 116.92 and without a single six . It is the second-worst strike rate among the top 30 highest run-scorers, and his rate drops to 108 in the powerplay overs. With his opening partner Prithvi Shaw also struggling for runs, Warner’s inability to get going has cost Delhi Capitals dearly. He has consumed an average of 39 deliveries per game without setting a high scoring tempo, and has increased the pressure on the batters that follow.

His batting difficulties have been reflected in his leadership skills as well. Delhi have made wholesale changes to their XI, and his under-utilisation of Axar Patel the batter has been befuddling. The Australian, who had led Sunrisers Hyderabad to the title in 2016 as skipper, scored 848 runs in that edition at a strike rate of 151.42. It’s clear that Warner the captain takes confidence from Warner the batter. His batting struggles, thus, have proved to be a major hindrance in more ways than one.

The powerplay over muddle

Delhi Capitals currently have a strike rate of 110 in the first six overs – the worst among all ten competing teams. In 2022, the franchise struck at 143.65 – the second-best – in the powerplay, as they got off to fiery starts match after match.

While Warner strikes below 110 this season upfront, his partner Prithvi Shaw strikes at a touch above 117. Unlike Warner, Shaw has been short of runs as well as impetus and Mumbaikar has not been much better. He has only scored 34 runs in the first five games of the season and has hit just a single six either. Their poor run has meant that Delhi are almost always playing catch-up for the rest of the innings.

Under-utilisation of Axar Patel the batter

While the openers have struggled, the middle order has also found it tough to get going. The batters who come in  between No.s 3 and 6 currently average a paltry 11.65  with a strike rate of 112.02 – the worst among all sides. A total of nine players have been tried in the middle order, and between them they have hit four sixes.

Despite their collective struggles, Delhi’s hesitation to push in-form Axar Patel up the order has been baffling. The all-rounder has batted in the top six only once, against Rajasthan Royals, and came out as low as No.8 against Lucknow Super Giants. Axar has been in phenomenal batting form across formats in the last 12 months, taking forward the confidence that he garnered from the 2022 IPL. In that edition, he finished with a batting average of 45.50 at a strike rate nearing 152.

Axar started off with scores of 16 (11), 36 (22), and 2 (6) in this year’s league, before smashing a 25-ball 54 after his team had collapsed to 98-5 in the 13th over. His heroics helped Delhi post a competitive 172, which posed a challenge for Mumbai Indians even though they managed to chase it down in the last over. Holding back a player in rhythm while the top six continue to struggle only highlights the unending troubles for the side.

Anrich Nortje’s inconsistency with the ball

Nortje was unavailable for the first game of the season due to international commitments, and DC went in with an all-Indian bowling attack. The South Africa quick returned for the next game and slotted in immediately. But, he has under-fired and left the team short-handed in the bowling department.

Nortje started off with figures of 2-39 against Gujarat Titans but struggled with lines throughout his overs. This was especially obvious against Sai Sudharsan. He hasn’t managed to take a wicket since that match and his economy rate of 9.31 has compounded concerns.

The lanky fast bowler entered the competition in fine form in T20Is – he averages 17.40 in 15 matches since the start of 2022 at an economy rate of 7.64. But, his powerplay economy rate for Delhi is nearing 11, while he concedes 9.29 runs at the death. The team have to expect more from their premier fast bowler.

No steady XI or plans

Delhi Capitals have used 17 players in the first five games, with only four – Warner, Shaw, Axar and Kuldeep Yadav – taking part in all matches. It indicates a failure to be clear with their plans and how the string of losses are affecting their tactics. Delhi had Sarfaraz Khan as their wicketkeeper in the opener before they subbed in Abishek Porel, also Pant’s replacement, thereafter. All-rounder Aman Khan, who they traded from Kolkata Knight Riders, has not been a regular member of the team either, while Lalit Yadav has also been in and out of the team.

Though the Impact Player Rule allows teams to mix up their combination, Delhi have played it safe as far as the tactic is concerned. With the likes of Ricky Ponting and Sourav Ganguly a part of the support staff, Delhi were expected to be on their toes, but a string of defeats have left the players and management confused and without answers.

To bet on the IPL with our Match Centre partners bet365, head here.

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