New Delhi, April 5 (IANS) Delhi Capitals lost their captain well before the 2021 Indian Premier League (IPL) started but it is this very factor that makes them arguably the most intriguing team going into the new season.
Shreyas Iyer’s replacement as skipper of the team this year will be 23-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant, who couldn’t make much of an impression last season, but has put up career-defining performances since then for India team.
Pant struggled to find consistency in IPL 2020, scoring 343 runs in 14 matches with just one half-century. He also missed a few matches due to injury.
Pant was dropped from the subsequent limited-overs tour of Australia but then turned it around in India’s 2-1 Test series win. Impressive performances followed during the series against England and it has culminated in him becoming captain of the franchise.
Iyer’s absence does leave a hole for DC in batting and puts more pressure on the top order to perform. This brings into focus Prithvi Shaw, who, unlike Pant, was dropped from the team after a string of failures last season and lost his place in the Indian setup as well due to his struggles with the bat.
The opener has since plundered a record 827 runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and DC would be hoping that he would carry forward his good form into the IPL.
He would be opening the batting with Shikhar Dhawan, who would be hungry to prove his worth in the shortest format of the game ahead of the T20 World Cup. DC have bought Steve Smith.
Smith may have to contend with a place on the bench considering that DC will be looking to field a foreign player in Shimron Hetmyer or Sam Billings in the lower middle-order in addition to all-rounder Marcus Stoinis and South African fast bowlers Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje.
It is to be noted, however, that Rabada and Nortje will be available for selection only from the second game which means Smith could be playing in DC’s season opener against Chennai Super Kings.
In the absence of Nortje and Rabada, England all-rounder Chris Woakes could also find a place in the squad that plays the first match. Woakes missed the previous season due to personal reasons and in his absence, Nortje established himself as one of the most important players in the team due to his propensity to take wickets in the powerplay and the death overs.
Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin make up valuable spinning options for DC, although the former testing positive for Covid-19 puts in doubt his participation in the first match at least.
It was a tale of two halves for DC last season — they started in emphatic fashion, winning seven out of their first nine matches. They, however, struggled to replicate that kind of form toward the end of the league stage and in the final, they lost to Mumbai Indians by five wickets.
“We want to go one step further this year and that’s the Delhi Capitals team goal. We have the players to win the title. We were very close last year and the plus point for this season is that most of the players such as Rishabh Pant have been playing a lot of cricket. They have been in touch with the game and therefore they are in good rhythm going into the IPL,” said assistant coach Mohammad Kaif.
Full squad: Rishabh Pant (captain/wicketkeeper), Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane, Steve Smith, Sam Billings, Shimron Hetmyer, Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Umesh Yadav, Tom Curran, Avesh Khan, Lalit Yadav, Pravin Dubey, Ripal Patel, Lukman Hussain Meriwala, M Siddharth, Marcus Stoinis, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Chris Woakes, Vishnu Vinod (wicketkeeper), Aditya Tare (wicketkeeper)
Coaching staff: Ricky Ponting,(head coach), Mohammad Kaif and Ajay Ratra(assistant coaches), Pravin Amre (batting consultant), James Hopes (bowling coach).