New Delhi: Six consecutive defeats into their IPL 6 campaign, the Delhi Daredevils franchise announced that they had signed on legendary West Indies batsman Sir Vivian Richards in the capacity of team ambassador. As per the official terminology, Richards would have an "advisory role" with Delhi. The news did not make many sit up considering Delhi's downward spiral had left them needing to win almost all their remaining matches to stay in the hunt for the IPL play-offs.
But lo and behold, in his first match as part of the Delhi set-up, Richards looked on from the sidelines as the team from the capitol hammered Mumbai Indians by nine wickets at home at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Sunday evening. Chasing 162, Delhi won by nine wickets with three overs left thanks to a record 151-run opening stand between Virender Sehwag (95*) and skipper Mahela Jayawardene (59). It capped a stunning upswing in fortunes, considering that in six previous matches Delhi had put up totals of 128, 160 for 6, 165 for 9, 152 for 5 and 83 - their lowest in the tournament.
Coincidence? Luck? It's difficult to say just yet, but fans of Delhi will seriously hope that Richards' arrival has sparked the much-needed drive needed to keep the team alive in IPL 6. Sehwag, who roared back to form after scores of 12, 25 and 17, credited the victory to Richards. He admitted after collecting the Man-of-the-Match award for his 57-ball innings that a few words of advice from the former West Indies captain had come in handy.
The signing of Viv Richards as Delhi's ambassador has coincided with Sehwag's return to form and the team's first win after six losses; it could prove a crucial alliance.
"I bluffed and thought that I have been in-form. Viv Richards spoke about bluffing, he said even if a batsman feels scared inside, he should show that he is confident, he has the self-belief. That has helped," was how Sehwag put it.
What else Richards told the team is not ascertained. But something has clicked. Sehwag had looked uneasy during his prior innings but on Sunday, on a good batting deck at the Kotla, he was sublime. In fact, he looked a batsman transformed. His driving, cutting and pulling were excellent and he clattered 13 fours and two sixes. It was the best Sehwag has looked for a long time, even considering that he was fed some very ordinary bowling by Jasprit Bumrah and Munaf Patel at the start of Delhi's tricky chase towards 162.
Visibly, Sehwag looked in control of his machination and was relaxed. So relaxed, in fact, that during a strategic timeout he was seen laughing while putting an arm around David Warner's shoulder. It was as if he was telling the Australian: "Chill, brother, I've got this one." There were smiles shared all around between the batsmen and coach and others during that brief break in play, which was in stark contrast to the looks worn by Jayawardene and his team-mates after six losses in a row.
Sehwag is no stranger to bouncing back from adversity, and the Twenty20 format allows him the liberty of going hammer and tongs from the start. In Richards, he has a legend who can guide and offer advice any time. On the field, it on the shoulders of Sehwag that Delhi's fortunes rest for the remainder of IPL 6. Off it, any gleanings from Richards must be valued immensely. In many ways Sehwag and Richards are alike: cavaliers, swashbucklers, laidback at the crease, and uncluttered in the mind.
It will be fascinating to watch their alliance as well as how Delhi do from here, now that they have a huge win under the belt. Interestingly, it was at the Kotla where Richards scored his first Test hundred. Maybe it will be here that he helps kick-start a season-turning run for Delhi Daredevils.