Capitals have a strong middle order to make up for Shreyas Iyer’s absence at the top
Where they ended in 2020
Finalists for the first time in IPL history, losing to eventual champions Mumbai Indians in a one-sided final. How did they get here? By finishing in the top two and using a second chance to beat Sunrisers Hyderabad in Qualifier-2.
1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Prithvi Shaw, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Rishabh Pant (captain, week), 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Shimron Hetmyer / Sam Billings, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, ten Anrich Nortje, 11 Umesh Yadav
PS: Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje will be available for selection from the Capitals’ game two, while Axar Patel could also miss game one after testing positive for Covid-19. It could mean that Steven Smith, who might otherwise have a fight with a few other overseas staff, could get started immediately.
Shreyas Iyer’s absence due to a shoulder injury leaves a hole in the stick. It puts much more emphasis on the higher order of Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, and Ajinkya Rahane.
The prospect of being in contention for the T20I will keep Dhawan hungry. As such, he was their best hitter last season, both in points (618) and hit rate (144.73 – among those who made at least 200 points). His 139 power-play strike rate was the fifth-best among those who faced 50 or more balls. Shaw, meanwhile, is dropping out of a chart-topping Vijay Hazare trophy after being pulled from the test team in Australia.
Shaw has been working with club consultant Pravin Amre in the meantime, with the main goal of being IPL ready. Having been ruled out of the squad mid-season at IPL 2020, a roaring Shaw, in the kind of form he’s currently taking, will complete Dhawan. The middle order seems to be settled with Rishabh Pant, the new captain, and Marcus Stoinis lending muscle to the batting. There could be a draw between Shimron Hetmyer and Sam Billings for the role of finisher.
Chris Woakes returns after missing the previous season for personal reasons. His replacement, Nortje, has since established himself as an uncontrollable pace option, stifling oppositions in the deaths alongside his South African teammate Rabada. This means Woakes may not find it easy to get into the first XI, although it is a great option nonetheless.
In Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, their new signing, they have two fast Indian bowlers, who could offer a lot of balance in the composition of their bowling attack and some flexibility when it comes to their four foreign players. Axar, who has just completed an excellent first test season with the Indian squad, is in good shape alongside R Ashwin, who is doing all he can to be in contention for India again.
His seven wickets were the most numerous on the power play last season, ahead of Axar and Washington Sundar. He was the fifth best during this phase of the competition. Overall, he picked up 13 wickets in 15 games for a saving of just 7.66.
Young player to watch
Rishabh pants was at an all time high last season, struggling for any kind of consistency or pace at his stick. Because of this, it was not even considered for India’s white ball teams for the Australia tour. But life seems to have come full circle. He’s coming back much fitter and with the form and confidence of the past six months that have marked his career – having played a key role in India’s back-to-back triumphs over Australia and England. He’s also not only returned to the white ball setup, but has also established himself as a key mid-level cog for the T20 World Cup. No wonder then that he was appointed captain of the capitals of Delhi. How will this additional responsibility fall on him? This will make the viewing convincing.
Ricky Ponting, (head coach), Mohammad Kaif and Ajay Ratra (assistant coaches), Pravin Amre (batting consultant), James Hopes (bowling coach)
Shashank Kishore is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo