The Delhi Capitals (DC) conjured their best performance at the IPL last season when they reached the final of the tournament and went down only at the final hurdle. Young captain, Shreyas Iyer and head coach, Ricky Ponting had a major role to play in the same and their combination so far has worked beautifully for the team. That said, Delhi will approach the upcoming season in the absence of regular skipper Iyer, who has been ruled out due to injury and will have young dynamic wicketkeeper batsman, Rishabh Pant at the helm of everything. His recent form for India had a lot to do with his selection as the stand-in skipper, and it will be fascinating to see how the team goes about under his leadership. On that note, let’s have a look at the strongest playing XI for them in IPL 2021:
Openers: Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan
The young batsman from Mumbai, Shaw has been in the outstanding form off late, leading his domestic side to Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021 glory. The stylish opener smashed 827 runs from 8 matches at an average of 165.40 and strike rate of 138.29, becoming the highest run-getter ever in a single season of the tournament. These stellar numbers have already made us forget a disappointing second half at IPL 2020 and failures of Australia, yet again presenting the man as the first-choice opener in the team.
While Dhawan dominated the tournament last time around, becoming the top run-getter for the side, scoring 618 runs from 17 games at an average of 44.14 and a strike rate of 144.73. He did have his share of troubles in the T20I series against England but later was back in form for the ODI series, scoring a century and a fifty in the 3 games that he played. His experience and wide range of stroke-play at the top of the order does the majority of the job for DC, building a requisite platform for the pinch-hitters to launch from.
Middle-order: Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant and Shimron Hetmyer
India’s vice-captain at the Test arena, Rahane was nowhere near to his best at IPL 2020, scoring just 113 runs from 8 innings at an average of 14.12 and a strike rate of 105.60. Lack of game-time and playing just 1 format for India at the international level played their part and the experienced batter will be raring to change his fortunes in the new season. Having successfully led the Test side to series victory down under and offered some crucial contributions at no. 4, confidence will be sky-high for Rahane, who will spare no effort to help DC go the distance.
The last few months have been surreal for Pant, who has contributed massively to India’s victories down under and against England at home. His recent showings in the limited overs series against England is testament to his growing credentials. The southpaw scored 102 runs from 4 T20I innings at an average of 25.50 and strike rate of 129.11 while he smashed 155 runs from 2 ODIs at an average of 77.50 and strike rate of 151.96. It is these phenomenal numbers that prompted the DC management to appoint him as the captain in place of an injured Iyer and witness the hard-hitting batsman lead by example at the biggest stage.
Bought at an exorbitant price given his heroics for the Windies side in the limited-overs formats, Hetmyer too failed to make a mark for DC last season. We often see him giving away his wickets or getting out in the run of play, making it difficult for him to procure any sort of momentum at the tournament. Despite the dismal performance, Hetmyer has been retained for the upcoming season and will mostly bat at no. 5 for the side. His love affair with the Indian pitches in the recent past puts him in good stead to act as a consistent performer at that spot, propelling DC to daunting totals on the board.
All-rounders: Marcus Stoinis and Axar Patel
Stoinis was arguably the best all-rounder to take the field for DC last season, contributing with both bat and ball. The powerful right-hander hammered 352 runs from 17 games at an average of 25.14 and strike rate of 148.52 while picking 13 wickets at an average of 21.76 and economy rate of 9.53. Needless to say, he was the go-to-man for skipper Iyer, doing the job for the side in every possible way. With him being in prime form for the Stars at BBL 10 and Australia, we can expect another impressive performance from the star all-rounder, continuing from where he left at IPL 2020.
Axar, though, was a surprise revelation for DC last year, who not just bowled economical spells but also picked crucial wickets in the powerplay. His powerful striking lower down the order and sharp reflexes in the field were added benefits, which all culminated into him receiving his maiden Test cap in the series against England. Not shying away from the opportunity, Axar ended as the 2nd highest wicket-taker in the series with 27 scalps in 3 Tests at an average of 10.59 and an economy rate of 2.24. This rich vein of form will see him play in the starting XI for DC over all others, getting an opportunity to impress the Indian selectors and guarantee his place in the limited-overs side as well.
Bowlers: Ravichandran Ashwin, Kagiso Rabada, Ishant Sharma and Anrich Nortje
The veteran off-spinner from Tamil Nadu has been in a fine form not just with the ball but also with the bat, scoring vital runs in the team’s cause. In the 4 Tests against England, Ashwin picked 32 wickets at an average of 14.71 and an economy rate of 2.50, while scoring 189 runs at an average of 31.50 which included a century at his home ground. With talks of his limited-overs comeback for India doing rounds, Ashwin will look to put his foot forward for the franchise and see his dream materialize.
The purple-cap winner in the last season of the IPL, snapping up 30 wickets from 17 games at an average of 18.26 and economy rate of 8.34, Rabada will be eager to hit the ground running for DC in IPL 2021. Unlike most other international bowlers, Rabada can bowl at various facets of a game and shoulders the responsibility of bowling miser spells. His ability to hit the deck hard and bowl at an express pace makes it difficult for opposition batsmen to get away or even rotate the strike. If this is not enough, an inch-perfect yorker or a mean bouncer is always round the corner, giving no breathing space to the batters and the opposition as a whole.
Having missed a major part of the IPL 2020 and Australia tour due to injury, Ishant made his comeback recently in the Test series against England. While it were the spinners who dominated the proceedings in the 4-match series, Ishant did showcase his prowess with the old and new ball, breaking important partnerships. The tall bowler has long lost his place in the Indian limited-overs side, owing to his expensive wicketless spells and this new season with DC is an ideal platform for him to be among the mix. If he can set the stage on fire in the initial few games, there is a high probability he may run-riot with the ball throughout, even winning the deemed purple-cap.
The ‘X-factor’ player for DC last season, who came as a replacement for Woakes and made the batsmen dance to his fast-bowling tune, Nortje will be very much excited for IPL 2021 to be played in India. His rip-roaring pace made it difficult for the batsmen to even see the ball, let alone scoring runs off them. He was the second-best bowler for DC with 22 wickets from 16 games at an average of 23.27 and an economy rate of 8.39. Having shattered the stumps on more than one occasions and hurt plenty of batsmen on his way towards glory, DC will expect the same ruthlessness from the South African pacer in IPL 2021, getting them close to winning their maiden title.