In the previous edition of IPL, Delhi Capitals came close to ending their wait for a first title. Instead, they faltered to serial winners Mumbai Indians, who lifted their fifth trophy in the tournament. A lot has changed since; the captain, for starters. Rishabh Pant, whose world seemed to have collapsed after a poor IPL outing that lost him a place in India’s limited-overs squads, was named the captain of the franchise in Shreyas Iyer’s absence – thanks to his scintillating return of form in the international circuit.
Life has come full circle for Pant whose dominant show in Tests against Australia and England won him a place in T20Is and ODIs against the latter. With a consistent show at a brilliant strike rate in limited-overs formats, the 23-year-old southpaw emerged as a top contender to lead the Capitals after Iyer’s shoulder injury ruled him out of the tournament.
IPL 2021 | Rishabh Pant aims to do something different in first match as captain against 'Mahi Bhai'
The franchise also welcomes overseas stars like Australia’s Steve Smith, and the English trio of Sam Billings, Tom Curran and Chris Woakes. Woakes had been a part of the outfit earlier too but missed the previous season.
As the Capitals prepare for the 2021 edition of IPL, let’s take a brief look into the squad’s orientation:
Despite the absence of Iyer, the Capitals derive their top-order core from the remainder of Indian players from the quartet of Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant. All the three are expected to remain, for the time being, an undroppable part of the XI. Shaw worked on his batting with Pravin Amre (DC batting consultant) and reaped rewards with a best-ever season at the Vijay Hazare Trophy, where he broke the record for most runs by an individual.
In the middle-order, Stoinis plays a major role for the side alongside aggressors like Shimron Hetmyer and Sam Billings, who might be competing for a fourth overseas spot. DC roped in Steve Smith in the 2021 IPL Auction, and he is likely to start at number three in the XI – at least until the franchise has all of their overseas options at disposal.
Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin provide handy batting options at 7th and 8th position respectively.
South Africa’s bowling duo of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje lit up the IPL 2020 with consistent performances for the Capitals. However, DC have new arrivals in Curran and Woakes, who will be competing for places in the XI.
In the spin department, Ashwin and Axar continue to be the first-choice players, alongside Amit Mishra, whose 2020 season was cut short with an injury. Ashwin was the top wicket-taker for the Capitals in the powerplay last year and the off-spinner is set to assume a significantly senior role in leadership this year following the absence of Iyer.
Rishabh Pant: Ever since his debut, the wicketkeeper-batsman had the pressure of undue expectations due to constant comparisons with Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Incidentally, Pant will now begin his captaincy stint in the tournament against MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings!
In the 2020 edition, Pant slammed only one half-century in 14 appearances, scoring only 343 runs at a lowly strike rate of 113. Unsurprisingly, he faced the brunt of his below-par performances as he was ruled out of the ODIs and T20Is against Australia. The wicketkeeper-batsman failed to find a rhythm last season; facilitating his ouster from the Indian team.
However, a remarkable outing in Australia (274 runs in three Tests), followed by match-winning performances against England (270 runs in six innings) triggered his return to coloured clothing. Eventually, he put out strong performances to gain a stronghold for place in the Indian middle-order squad for the T20 World Cup
Thus, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the youngster was handed the captaincy despite the presence of stalwarts like Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith in the squad and is highly anticipated to grow into the role.
Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Steve Smith (overseas/o), Rishabh Pant (c/wk), Shimron Hetmyer/Sam Billings (o), Marcus Stoinis (o), Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kagiso Rabada, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav.
(Axar Patel is expected to remain absent from the first match as he tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Rabada and Nortje, meanwhile, landed in India earlier this week and are unlikely to play in the side's opening game as well.)