Having finished third (2019) and second (2020) after six years of missing the playoffs, Delhi looks to take the ultimate step up — without captain Shreyas
Over the last two seasons, Delhi Capitals has seemed firmly on the redemption course. After failing to make the playoffs for six successive editions, Capitals finished in the top three in 2019 and reached the final in 2020.
This year, too, Capitals begin as 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 noticeable improvement in his wicketkeeping skills.
Luxury 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.
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 as the other specialist pace option. 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.
Rishabh Pant: This supremely confident youngster could unleash his stroke-making skills to make the decisive difference to his side’s fortunes. Although captaincy is unlikely to affect the way he bats, the faith shown by Capitals should see him put a price tag on his wicket and stay longer at the crease.