Capital's punishment: Delhi drought continues in franchise sport

Dabang Delhi got the better of defending champions Bengaluru Bulls and their star player Pawan Kumar Sehrawat to make their first PKL final. Pro Kabaddi League

Dabang Delhi got off to a roaring start against Bengal Warriors in the final of PKL Season 7, before an unbelievable implosion saw them losing out 39-34 in the end.

While their season represents the best ever showing for Delhi in their seven seasons, the defeat in the final would be a bitter pill to swallow for the fans of a city who have not really been spoiled silly with success at the franchise leagues across India over the past decade and a bit.

Cricket - Delhi Capitals (formerly Delhi Daredevils)

A mentoring duo of Sourav Ganguly and Ricky Ponting, former national captains of India and Australia, respectively, saw the Delhi Capitals make the playoffs stage of the Indian Premier League (IPL) for the fourth time in 12 seasons earlier this year, but Delhi have been the classic underachievers of the IPL, with due apologies to Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Delhi began life in 2008 as one of the best rosters on paper, and at least they played like that for most of the first two years -- even topping the league phases in South Africa in 2009 -- making successive semi-final appearances. A blip thereafter was followed by another league-stage topping performance in 2012. Inexplicably, they benched their top wicket-taker Morne Morkel, and played rookie spinner Sunny Gupta in their second qualifier against Chennai Super Kings, and were duly walloped, thanks to a Murali Vijay century.

Between 2012 and their next playoffs entry in 2019, their best finish was sixth, and they made more headlines for the rate of attrition of players going in and out of their camp.

Honourable mention: In the long-defunct Indian Cricket League (ICL), Delhi Jets, led by former Sri Lankan captain Marvan Atapattu, made the semi-finals in the inaugural season in 2007. In two editions of the ICL after that, Jets renamed themselves Giants and suffered a mighty fall, right down to fifth and sixth positions on the points table.

Football - Delhi Dynamos

Delhi Dynamos are now history, replaced in the Indian Super League (ISL) by Odisha FC, but while they were there for five seasons, they often made you want to do a jig, and claw your eyes out, often in the course of 90 minutes.

Dynamos narrowly lost out on semi-final contention in the opening season in 2014, but then World Cup winners Roberto Carlos and Gianluca Zambrotta arrived in the seasons to follow and took them to semi-finals finishes, infusing an attacking brand of football to what used to be a side that found it difficult to score. Carlos even laced up for a few matches and put in short appearances on the pitch, absurdly out of shape but still possessing the touch of a magician.

Zambrotta's team, particularly, were unlucky to lose their two-legged semi-finals against Kerala Blasters on penalties. They entertained in no small measure, but the two seasons after the 2006 World Cup winner for Italy were memorable only for the odd bright performance, string of defeats, and homilies about building a team for the future.

Honourable mention: In two seasons of the Premier Futsal that took place in 2016 and 2017, Delhi Dragons made the final of the second edition Ronaldinho was their marquee player, but they were beaten by Mumbai Royals, and their star attraction Ryan Giggs.

Badminton - Delhi Dashers (formerly Delhi Aces)

If you are seeing a pattern in the frequent changes of names for Delhi franchises, you're probably not alone. Suffice to say in the Premier Badminton League (also formerly the Indian Badminton League), only one of these names came to any good use for Delhi.

The Acers began in the first IBL in 2013, and finished fifth of six teams. The next edition only took place in 2016, and by then the Acers became the Dashers. They topped the group stages and actually won the competition.

Since 2017, there have been three seasons and normal service was largely restored. They finished last in both 2017 and 2019, with a semi-final defeat in between in 2018.

Hockey - Delhi Waveriders

The first franchise league in Indian sport, the Premier Hockey League, didn't bother with a Delhi franchise when they launched in 2004. In 2012, the Indian Hockey Federation (IHF), already at war with the rival faction's Hockey India (HI), launched World Series Hockey, and Delhi Wizards just missed out on a last-four finish.

However, when HI launched Hockey India League (HIL), Delhi finally had a team worth shouting about. Delhi Waveriders were comfortable table-toppers in the league stages, and routed Punjab to set up a final with Ranchi Rhinos in Ranchi, losing a pulsating final despite scoring first.

The following year, former India coach Cedric D'Souza took Delhi to the title, and they made the semi-finals in each of the three editions since, winning third place in both 2015 and 2016.

It's almost as if Delhi fans just can't catch a break -- they had one consistent team across all leagues, and the league itself has had no further editions since 2017, and there's uncertainty about when it might have a restart, if at all.