There are two ways to see where the capitals of Delhi are at IPL 2020 right now. Optimists will say they only need to win two games and the title is theirs. Realists will point out that they have now lost five of their last six games, three of them in pursuit, in what has become a tournament heavily skewed in favor of pursuing teams.
If you want to know what went wrong, you’ll have to look at what the Capitals did in the offseason when they pitched and acquired certain players, ending up with an unbalanced and heavy squad. One of those acquisitions, from Royal Challengers Bangalore, was someone to be excited about. Surely, if you asked the Royal Challengers now, would they regret not having that mighty middle hitter on their squad? That man, Shimron Hetmyer, is now with the Capitals, but has played only ten of the possible 15 games. He was eliminated by the last two in the commercial final of the tournament.
It is said, not without reason, that the fastest way for a player to improve in the public eye is for his team to lose in his absence. This is a completely different case. Since the beginning of this decline, Capitals have the lowest execution rate in the middle, even worse than the notorious Royal Challengers. It could be argued that they have lost more power playing grounds in this phase of the tournament than either side, which is sure to have an impact on intermissions, but the Kolkata Knight Riders have been just as bad in that opening period and still have he scored at 7.68 in the half overs to 6.96 for the Capitals.
The Capitals’ response to that shaky higher order, particularly the form of Prithvi Shaw (49 runs in his last eight innings) has been to drop Shaw first and then add a consistent first-order hitter at the expense of that chaos in between. Doing that only works when you’re chasing and you know what total to get, and that’s also when the total is below average, as it was against the Royal Challengers in the match that sealed their second place.
When you choose a team, you do it for difficult scenarios and not for the best ones. And the toughest ones are asked to hit first and score higher than par or chase over 190. In both scenarios, you need chaos in between, and Rishabh Pant doesn’t provide it at this point. Hetmyer is exactly the Nicholas Pooran-like hitter the Capitals need in the middle to make sure they can fight back if they lose early ground or to make sure spinners or halftime bowlers don’t get away with cheap overs. .
Hetmyer will be the first to admit that he hasn’t turned on the IPL. His strike rate is good at 140 but he hasn’t scored more than 45 in one inning. On the other hand, he has been the most expendable foreign player for them, with Marcus Stoinis showing unexpected form at the start of the season. Even when Pant got injured, Hetmyer had to stay out through no fault of his own as they didn’t have an Indian wicketkeeper on the team and they had to play Alex Carey. Even playing in the XI, Hetmyer has often hit behind Stoinis. Of the nine innings he has played, five have reached No. 6, while his role with other teams is to hit higher than that.
Perhaps Hetmyer has not shown the team management enough to entrust him with a bigger role, but at this stage of the tournament they cannot play the same kind of cricket that they have in their last matches and expect a different result. The returns of Pant and Shaw are a problem, but leaving Hetmyer is not a solution for that. The Capitals’ campaign has reached a stage where they may have no choice but to bring Hetmyer in and give him the kind of freedom that Pooran had in Kings XI Punjab.
The change is simple. One of Shaw and Ajinkya Rahane is left out, matter of preference, whether you want an out-of-shape winner or a stable starter, and Daniel Sams opens the spot overseas. If the possible dew of the night makes it difficult to play Harshal Patel, who relies mainly on cutters, the Capitals will have to go with Tushar Deshpande.
The Capitals have two ways to do it in the remainder of the tournament. The first is to hope to win the draw, restrict the opposition to a below-average total, and pursue conservatively, which is what his current XI is built for. Or they can go back to being positive and give themselves a chance each way. There are no opportunities left.