Starting from scratch

Even Dinesh Karthik cannot believe that he has been bid for Rs. 12.5 crore.-R.V. MOORTHY

After finishing bottom of the table for the second time in three years last season, Delhi Daredevils felt the need to do something drastic. All existing players were cut loose, giving the team a full, heaving purse at the auction. Kevin Pietersen was bought back, with the help of an RTM (Right to Match) card, while Dinesh Karthik was roped in at an inflated price. M. Vijay, Mohammed Shami and Jaydev Unadkat are useful domestic additions while Quinton de Kock, Nathan Coulter-Nile, J. P. Duminy and James Neesham look like decent imports. Ross Taylor — irrespective of how many games he gets to play — is a proven IPL performer.

With the benefit of a better budget, Delhi was also able to buy uncapped players of the likes of Kedar Jadhav and Mayank Agarwal. One worry, though, is that the team failed to secure any big-name players beyond Pietersen. Duminy and de Kock can be explosive batsmen but they’re not in the same league as KP. Delhi will thus need Vijay, Karthik, and Jadhav to play mature roles with the bat.

Last season, Delhi missed Pietersen on the field and looked directionless as it finished rock bottom. Mahela Jayawardene looked increasingly frazzled as skipper. The captaincy debate has already begun this season with Pietersen’s name bandied about. “I would like to be in a leadership role in some way, whether it is captaincy or helping out the leader and the youngsters in the team,” he told the official broadcaster. The coach Gary Kirsten admitted that Pietersen — who will be available for the whole season after parting ways with the England national team — and Karthik were being considered.

Pietersen’s value, it is clear, extends beyond the pitch. It is not just that he is marketable. Last season he flew in and sat in the dug-out despite not being fit to play himself, cheering the team on heartily and readily working with young Indian players. It is quite the contrast from the arrogant, divisive figure he’s portrayed to be in England.

“He’s a legend. I want to learn as much as possible from him and try to apply that in my game,” Agarwal, an opening batsman for Karnataka, told The Hindu.

A second reason for Delhi’s struggles last season was the absence of spinners beyond Shahbaz Nadeem and Pawan Negi. Nadeem was better than good last time but he had to shoulder a huge burden alone; he has support now from Duminy and Rahul Sharma.

Pietersen is the type of player, as his former captain Michael Vaughan has noted, who needs to feel important and loved. With a seemingly astute man-manager like Kirsten in charge, Pietersen will deliver his best. Despite looking a little lightweight, Delhi could be set for a better season than last time.

THE TEAM Players retained: None.

Players bought: Dinesh Karthik (Rs. 12.5 crore), Kevin Pietersen (9), Murali Vijay (5), Mohammed Shami (4.25), Nathan Coulter-Nile (4.25), Quinton de Kock (3.5), Jaydev Unadkat (2.8), Manoj Tiwary (2.8), J. P. Duminy (2.2), Kedar Jadhav (2, RTM), Ross Taylor (2), Rahul Sharma (1.9), Mayank Agarwal (1.6), Laxmi Ratan Shukla (1.5), James Neesham (1), Wayne Parnell (1), Shahbaz Nadeem (Rs. 85 lakh, RTM), Saurabh Tiwary (70), Siddharth Kaul (45), Rahul Shukla (40), Milind Kumar (10), H. S. Sharath (10) and Jayant Yadav (10).

Shreedutta Chidananda