The decision to leave out paceman Morne Morkel in the IPL Qualifier-II raised a lot of eyebrows but Delhi Daredevils head coach Eric Simons defended the strategy, saying it was aimed at finding the "right balance" in the side.
Simons said Andre Russell was an automatic choice in place of injured all-rounder Irfan Pathan and they needed a second spinner against the Chennai batting line-up, so little known Sunny Gupta was chosen.
Delhi crashed out of the IPL 5 as they conceded a mammoth 222 runs and went on to suffer a humiliating 86-run defeat against Chennai Super Kings, on Friday.
"When we do not have the services of Irfan Pathan, we needed to find balance. The question is not about Morne Morkel. Russell bowled well giving away 29 runs, took a catch and scored 16 runs. He made a decent contribution. So, you could measure from that perspective. Russell was the direct replacement for Irfan Pathan," Simons said at the post-match press conference.
"That is the decision we made and took our chance. Sunny was a risk. Obviously, Chennai are a very balanced side with four left-handers and four right-handers in the top eight and it makes very difficult. We had to take a decision to play someone who turns the ball away," he added.
Simons said they could have won the match had they restricted Chennai to under-200.
"Chennai has been very good in chasing. Murali Vijay played an incredible innings. If we could have restricted them to 180 or so, we could get it and then things works. It is difficult to sit in a situation like this and completely judge in hindsight. Someone plays a great innings and we paid the price," he said.
The coach also defended skipper Virender Sehwag coming at number three, instead of opening the innings.
"The batting line of Warner and Viru had not worked well. It was a better option to have since we want somebody to support David Warner. Mahela plays well and comes up with good scores if he comes out," he said.
Delhi had dominated the league stage but yet again failed in the crunch matches. Simons said it was unfortunate but they are keen to take corrective measures.
"In 2009 too we dominated the league system. I was not there then. I cannot say. I just think we need to learn as a unit to play smart cricket in such situations. Lot of things had been spoken about how we are different in the bowling and batting. I think we have young players and they are growing up. We had lot of dot balls but we gave more boundaries. We need to find balances in these aspects. I must say that we did not choke but we were not firing in the last two games."
Overall, Simons looked satisfied with his side's performance in the fifth edition of the league.
"I must say that we showed what we can do. I think that there are one or two tweaks that we need to make and then we will be a team to winning in all conditions. That is the next choice. We can arrive at a ground and whatever the opposition give us in terms of conditions we got to put up right combinations to be successful," he said.
Simons was all praise for Chennai, who are peaking at the right time in the competition. On Kolkata and Chennai final?
"Chennai is a very balanced side and they sneaked into the play off with a mission. They are a tough team balanced both in the bowling and batting line up. They have eight batsmen who can rotate the strike well. They struggled through the league system but come good at the business end, which is the sign of champions and that is what they are," he said.