• September 30, 2020 2:03 pm

Reporting From Delhi

Can the Capitals pull through?

ByThePatriot

Sep 11, 2020

With the 12th edition of the IPL just over a week away, Patriot analyses the chances of Delhi Capitals, and whether they can make the cut this year

Delhi Capitals have blown hot and cold through the first 12 seasons of the IPL. No team has finished bottom of the points table as many times as they have. They topped the league standings twice and have qualified for the play-offs on four occasions, but have never managed to go beyond that.

Their strength in the last few years has been the young Indian triumvirate of skipper Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw, who defined their run to the top four in 2019. They inched past Sunrisers Hyderabad in the closely contested Eliminator to register their first ever win in the play-offs, but were undone by Chennai Super Kings in the Qualifier.

Come 2020, they still look thin on experience, a void which has been evident in pressure games in the past. The emergence of the young guns, though, to go with some reputed overseas internationals, still make them a force to reckon with.

DC were the most active team during the transfer window, indulging in multiple trades. The major ones being traded in are R Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane while trading out Trent Boult. Marcus Stoinis, Shimron Hetmeyer, Chris Woakes and Jason Roy are the notable buys in the auctions. However, Chris Woakes and Jason Roy pulled out of the tournament just ahead of the beginning of the season, putting the management in a little spot of bother. The replacements, Anrich Nortje and Daniel Sams, are at the best backup options and nowhere near the quality of the original duo.

In theory, Ajinkya Rahane’s introduction to the set-up adds more stability to the top of Delhi’s batting order, alongside Shikhar Dhawan and the flamboyant Shaw. However, with Iyer and Pant having excelled at No.3 and 4 respectively in the last edition, it’s not a certainty that both Rahane and Dhawan will make the XI.

Marcus Stoinis lit up the recent Big Bash League, aggregating a staggering 705 runs at 54.23 for the Melbourne Stars, and he’s likely to take the finisher’s role in a batting line-up that lacks depth. Alex Carey and Shimron Hetmyer also present stiff competition among overseas internationals, as both have shown their T20 batting prowess in the past. Their ball-striking abilities against spin make them tough to look past, considering the slow nature of the Delhi track.

Rishabh Pant, with his superb performance in the last two seasons of the IPL will be looking to cement his place in India’s T20 team Photo: Getty Images

Delhi Capitals have been guilty of letting go some of their biggest players in the past, most notably David Warner and AB de Villiers, both of whom have gone on to become the central pillars for their respective teams. They have arguably done so yet again, releasing two of their premier quicks in Trent Boult and Chris Morris. With Chris Woakes having already opted out of the upcoming tournament, their fast bowling hopes rest heavily on the shoulders of Kagiso Rabada, who is battling a groin injury.

Should Rabada be unavailable, like he was in 2018 and during the second half of last season, Delhi will still have the experienced Indian quicks of Ishant Sharma and Mohit Sharma to rely on. But with the former having certain limitations in the shortest format and the latter not being at his best in recent times, there are concerns about how well stocked they are in the pace bowling department.

Among their spinners, they have the skills and experience of Amit Mishra and R Ashwin to bank on, the former being the second highest wicket-taker in the competition’s history. Add to the mix the all-round skills of Axar Patel and the promising Sandeep Lamichhane, spin is a definite strength.

Lalit Yadav, the all-rounder could be a useful addition, having shown promise on either fronts in his short T20 career, as well as Tushar Deshpande, the right-arm quick, who can clock 140 kph on a consistent basis.

Delhi Capitals have one of the strongest Indian cores in the tournament; so much so that they can play with an all-Indian lineup and still be a formidable unit. The perfect blend of youth and experience, which was the missing link in their squad, is now there with the likes of Rahane, Ashwin, Dhawan, and Ishant Sharma added to the squad over the last couple of years.

However, the only concern they have is the back-up for the injury-prone Kagiso Rabada. Rabada’s impact can be gauged from the difference he made last year, after missing the 2018 season due to injury. Delhi have the likes of Keemo Paul, Ishant Sharma, and Mohit Sharma to fill in the slot but the impact would not be the same. Moreover, Ishant Sharma is nursing an injury and Chris Woakes pulling out of the IPL has added to the woes.

Since taking over the reins of the team, Shreyas Iyer has emerged as a leader with the ability to perform in difficult situations Photo: Getty Images

Key players

Rishabh Pant: Pant has been superb in the last two IPLs, hitting 1,172 runs at 45.07, taking on some of the best bowlers in business. The left-hander will look at the upcoming tournament as an opportunity to further showcase his talent and cement his spot in India’s T20I set-up with the T20 World Cup less than eight months away.

Rishabh Pant has struggled to replicate his excellent IPL form on the international stage

Kagiso Rabada: Rabada was Delhi’s strike-bowler for a majority of the last season, finishing as their second-highest wicket-taker in the competition with 25 scalps at 14.72. His raw pace and pinpoint accuracy, to go with the ability to deliver in crunch moments, makes him a much sought-after bowler, both with the new ball and at death overs. His fitness, however, remains a worrying factor.

Delhi seems to be short on experience, especially in the pace department, which dents their chances somewhat. They do have promising talents in their ranks, but the tendency to falter at crucial junctures has persisted through the years. That said, the potential of their young stars eager to make a mark, under a captain who is slowly taking strides in international cricket, can’t be discarded.

Kagiso Rabada, Delhi’s strike-bowler for a majority of the last season finished as their second-highest wicket-taker in the competition Photo: Twitter.com

Shreyas Iyer- Taking over the captaincy from Gambhir in 2018, Iyer has taken giant strides, both in terms of batting as well as leading the side. A more complete batsman now and a regular for India, Iyer at number four will hold the middle-order together. Sandwiched between power hitters like Shaw, Hetmeyer, and Pant in the batting order, Iyer’s ability to play according to the situation makes him a valuable asset.

Ravichandran Ashwin – The former KXIP skipper was traded in by DC during the transfer window. The move might prove to be a masterstroke, given the nature of their home pitch and Ashwin’s ability to take advantage of such pitches. Despite not being amongst wickets off late in the IPL, Ashwin continues to be economical even on pitches not assisting with much turn. But he finally will be getting a pitch similar to Chepauk, which will be slow and assist spin, which is why Ashwin is one of the bowlers to look forward to this season.

Probable XI

Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, Alex Carey, Marcus Stoinis, Harshal Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kagiso Rabada, Sandeep Lamichhane

(Cover: The strength of the Delhi Capitals team’s strength in the last few years has been the young Indian triumvirate of skipper Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant and Prithvi Shaw // Photo: Getty Images)