With the IPL set to begin on April 9, Patriot gives a preview of how the Delhi Capitals could fare in 2021
Over the last two seasons, Delhi Capitals have seemed to be on the road to redemption. After failing to make the playoffs for six successive editions, Capitals finished in third in 2019 and reached the final for the first time in history in 2020.
This year, too, Capitals began as one of the firm favourites to make the playoffs. Even without injured captain Shreyas Iyer — and with all-rounder Axar Patel set to miss the start of the tournament after testing positive for COVID-19 — Capitals have the bench-strength to get past the league stage.
Under new skipper Rishabh Pant, on a high in the last four months, Capitals boast of the much sought-after ‘balance’ of a formidable playing XI.
For Pant, much has happened since the last edition of the IPL. The flamboyant youngster’s place in the national squad, in all formats, stands cemented and he has brought about considerable improvement in his wicket keeping skills.
A wealth of options
Capitals’ batting line-up offers a few right-left combinations, followed by the luxury of options among the available all-rounders before the bowlers almost select themselves in the playing XI.
All credit should go to the team’s think-tank, headed by coach Ricky Pointing, for the decisions taken before and during the recent auction. Capitals let go of players who did not fit the plans and invested in all-rounder Tom Curran (₹5.25 cr.), Steve Smith (₹2.2 cr.) and wicketkeeper Sam Billings (₹2 cr.). They also added Umesh Yadav (₹1 cr.) as a back-up pacer.
Up front, openers Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw have displayed good recent form, as if with a vengeance to make up for the string of poor innings.
Ajinkya Rahane provides the calming influence in the company of Shimron Hetmyer/Smith and Pant before all-rounders such as Marcus Stoinis/Chris Woakes make a late charge.
Strong bowling lineup
In the bowling department, Capitals have the services of the South African duo of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, with a fit-again Ishant Sharma back to add experience to the fiery pace battery.
Curran, Stoinis and Umesh could take turns in making the playing XI. Spinners R. Ashwin and Amit Mishra add variety. Once Axar is back, Capitals need look no further.
At least on paper, Capitals seem prepared for ‘death-over bowling’ which caused some worry in the previous edition.
With their resources in order, Capitals have the capability to go all the way. After all, Ponting will settle for nothing less from this brigade.
The Pant factor
Not long ago Rishabh Pant was struggling for a spot in the Indian team, but at the moment he’s the man of the moment of the cricketing world. His fearless batting helped India beat Australia down under and the fiery wicketkeeper batsman has been scoring runs consistently ever since.
As flamboyant as he is, Pant over the last few series has shown that he could also be calculative and resilient. He’s a serial match-winner who is currently in top form and DC could not have asked for more.
It will be interesting to see how Pant reacts to the added responsibility of captaincy. Will he succumb to the pressure or will the new role bring the best out of him?
Going by recent evidence, one would feel the captaincy will only help him find a new gear in his cricket. The presence of Ponting in the dressing room is also going to be vital
Runs are runs and Shreyas Iyer got 519 of them last season. An Indian batsman giving you 500+ plus runs is like a goldmine in IPL, and DC needs to ensure that Iyer, the batsman, is not missed much.
Both Rahane and Smith had an average seasons last time around. Rahane could only manage 113 runs in nine games while Smith scored 311 in 14 games. The No 3 spot is a glue in cricket that not only sticks the batting unit together but also has to provide the platform for the lower-order and firepower to the innings.
Rahane being an Indian batsman should be the first pick which allows DC to play Hetmyer who provides hard-hitting option and adds variety with his left-hand batting. Smith’s inclusion will force DC to change their combination of foreign players from last year, but if the Australian provides runs, the franchise wouldn’t mind.
DC have some more good players in their squad, namely Sam Billings and Tom Curran. However, they look a bit thin when it comes to like-for-like replacements. It’s not just an issue for DC. The competition for competent personnel is intense in IPL and if you are good, there’s very little chance you would warm the bench at a franchise rather than playing for another one. This definitely puts pressure on DC’s first-choice players who need to be at the top of their game for DC to have another great season.
Full Squad: Rishabh Pant (capt and wicketkeeper), Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane, Shimron Hetmyer, Marcus Stoinis, Chris Woakes, R Ashwin, Axar Patel, Amit Mishra, Lalit Yadav, Pravin Dubey, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Ishant Sharma, Avesh Khan, Steve Smith, Umesh Yadav, Ripal Patel, Vishnu Vinod, Lukman Meriwala, M Siddarth, Tom Curran, Sam Billings.
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