The Delhi Capitals sit at the top of the points table and look poised to clinch their first title with Shreyas Iyer returning for the second leg in the UAE following his injury back in March.
A complete overhaul at the 2018 mega auction did little for the Delhi franchise; the perennial underachievers of the IPL couldn’t break away from the bottom half of the table and finished rock bottom at the end of the 2018 IPL season. But shrewd recruitment, both during the 2019 and the 2020 mini-auctions, has resulted in the Delhi Capitals making tremendous gains over the last two seasons.
Under the tutelage of two-time World Cup-winning captain Ricky Ponting as head coach and a charismatic leader in Shreyas Iyer, the Capitals finished third during the 2019 season. And last season, the Capitals, alongside the Mumbai Indians, were rampant during the league stages and made it to their first-ever IPL final, but the task of overcoming the mighty Mumbai Indians at the final hurdle proved too much for the Capitals, as Rohit Sharma and his team clinched their fifth IPL title in eight years.
A fortnight prior to the IPL season kicking off, the Capitals were dealt a huge blow when captain Shreyas Iyer pulled out of the tournament after dislocating his shoulder playing against England, and head coach Ricky Ponting gave the responsibility of leading the side to the young and flamboyant Rishabh Pant.
And his gamble seemed to have paid off. The Capitals have played eight matches during the first leg of the 2021 season and are sitting at the top of the table with six wins and two defeats.
Although Iyer is fit and raring to join the Delhi camp, as per insider reports, Rishabh Pant is expected to see out the season as the captain of the Capitals.
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Rishabh Pant (c & wk), Shreyas Iyer, Ajinkya Rahane, Amit Mishra, Avesh Khan, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada, Prithvi Shaw, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Lalit Yadav, Marcus Stoinis, Shimron Hetmyer, Anrich Nortje, Steve Smith, Umesh Yadav, Ripal Patel, Lukman Hussain Meriwala, M Siddharth, Pravin Dubey, Vishnu Vinod, Chris Woakes, Sam Billings, Tom Curran.
Let’s take a look at the Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, and Threats (SWOT) of the Delhi Capitals.
Without a shadow of a doubt, alongside MI, DC have one of the strongest assortments of domestic players, if not the strongest. Players like Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Ajinkya Rahane, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Ravichandran Ashwin, Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw and Axar Patel have all represented India at senior level and the experience they possess is gold dust.
If their domestic roster frightens you, take a look at their overseas firepower. Former Rajasthan Royals captain Steven Smith and West Indian Shimron Hetmyer will battle it out for a slot in the middle-order, while Marcus Stoinis has been a revelation for the Capitals ever since joining the franchise. The English duo of Chris Woakes and Tom Curran are able replacements for Marcus Stoinis while South African pacers Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada will continue to torment the opposition batters.
Meanwhile, their spin department boasts of everything a captain needs: a world-class off-spinner in Ravichandran Ashwin, an economical and probing slow left-arm spinner in Axar Patel, and an experienced leggie and one of IPL’s highest wicket-takers in Amit Mishra.
Honestly, I don’t see any weaknesses in this Delhi squad. They have a well-balanced squad to counter every condition and barring internal disputes or large-scale injuries, I don’t see the Capitals falling off any time soon.
However, their death bowling was a bit of a concern with Rabada as the only recognisable death specialist. His compatriot, Nortje, has express pace but has leaked runs at the death. But one positive before the COVID pandemic brought the IPL to a halt was the rise of Avesh Khan – the death bowler. The lanky fast bowler took 14 wickets from eight matches at an economy of 7.7, overshadowing Delhi’s lead bowler Rabada, who took eight wickets at an economy of 8.76.
Indeed, Rabada did look out of touch during the first leg, and if he can’t get his rhythm back after the break, Delhi will need Avesh or someone else to step up and deliver at the death.
While Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul look set to be the opening pair for the upcoming T20 World Cup, the Delhi opening duo of Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan would love to create a dilemma for the Indian selectors.
Dhawan, for that matter, has every possibility of making the Indian squad, as the southpaw currently holds the Orange Cap with 380 runs against his name. While Shaw, on the back of amassing a mammoth 827 runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, sits fourth on this season’s Orange Cap list with 308 runs at a strike rate of 185.
Moreover, there are slots available for that T20 World Cup squad. India are still searching for a No. 5 batter, which was Shreyas Iyer’s before he dislocated his shoulder, while their spin department does look bleak with Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav both lacking that cutting edge and a spring in their step. Although nothing can be written off these days, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel would surely be eyeing those two slots.
Despite having a strong and well-balanced squad, the Delhi Capitals don’t have a proper replacement for either of their overseas pacers. Both Nortje and Rabada have blown hot and cold during the first leg with their death bowling questioned on a couple of instances. Should they continue misfiring and the Indian contingent fail to contribute, Delhi have the potential to leak runs at a rapid rate.
Moreover, the inexperience in their bowling lineup was exposed last season by the Mumbai Indians as the eventual winners toyed with the Delhi bowlers on all four instances. The Capitals have the batting depth throughout their squad, but Rabada is the lynchpin and needs to fire for Delhi for them to clinch that first title.