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).
Sometimes miss Dhoni’s guidance: Kuldeep Yadav
Spinner Kuldeep Yadav has admitted that he misses the guidance he used to get from MS Dhoni when the latter kept wickets. Kuldeep has seen his international appearances nosedive since the end of 2019, which was also the year that Dhoni played his last match for India.
“Sometimes I miss that guidance because he (Mahi) has great experience. He used to guide us behind the wicket, kept screaming. We miss his experience. Rishabh is there now, the more he plays, the more input he will give in the future. I always felt every bowler needs a partner who can respond from the other end,” Yadav told The Indian Express.
Yadav has played seven ODIs in 2020 and 2021, as compared to 23 in 2019 alone. Dhoni played his last game for India in their semi-final defeat to New Zealand in the 2019 World Cup on July 10 before eventually retiring from international cricket on August 15, 2020.
“When Mahibhai was there, I and (Yuzvendra) Chahal were playing. Ever since Mahi bhai left, Chahal and I haven’t played together. I played only a handful of games after Mahibhai left. I must have played ten-odd games. I had even taken a hat-trick. If you look at the performance as a whole, it will look pretty decent but if one breaks it up then my performance sometimes can look not up to the mark. One has to also look at the opposition we are playing against,” said Yadav.
India should play both Jadeja and Ashwin in WTC final: Pragyan Ojha
Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin should both be playing in the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand for their prowess with the bat as much as their ability to take wickets, said Pragyan Ojha.
Ojha said that with India having no fast-bowling all-rounder in the squad, Jadeja in particular gives them an extra option in the batting order.
“They should play, both of them. Because both can bat, both have the experience of bowling on any track. The biggest plus point is Jadeja can bat up the order. The way he is performing. Mind you if you look at his domestic record, he’s got three triple hundreds.
I think he can bat long and Ashwin has got international hundreds also. I feel if there’s a little chance where you can play both the spinners, you should play. They have enough experience to win you games on any wicket,” Ojha told Sports Today.
“Overall, it’s a fantastic team. Even I was following Hanuma Vihari. Very thoughtful of him to go and play some county cricket. You know you get acclimatised to the conditions. That’s very important,” he added.
Jadeja will be making his comeback to the Test team after being sidelined in the second Test against Australia due to a finger injury. The injury forced him to miss the four-Test series at home against England but he hit the ground running for Chennai Super Kings in the 2021 Indian Premier League.
Ashwin, on the other hand, has experienced a resurgence with the bat in recent matches, helping India to a draw in the third Test against Australia by fending off 128 balls and finishing unbeaten on 39. He then scored 106 against England in the second Test in Chennai in February.
Shikhar Dhawan could lead India in Sri Lanka white-ball series
Opener Shikhar Dhawan could lead an India side for the limited-overs tour of Sri Lanka in July as the Indian cricket board looks to form a white-ball squad in the absence of top players who will be busy in England for Test matches at the time.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Prithvi Shaw, Hardik Pandya and Ishan Kishan could be in the white-ball squad that is likely to play three One-day Internationals and three T20 Internationals at a single venue in the island nation from July 13.
While plans for the tour have not been thrashed out yet and there has been no official announcement, it is natural that some of the players who have performed in limited overs cricket for India and in the IPL recently will be picked.
Ishan Kishan and Suryakumar Yadav, who both did well for Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020, and also in the white-ball series against England at home, could be in the squad.
Among youngsters who have burst onto the scene through IPL, spinner Rahul Chahar and left-arm pace bowler Chetan Sakariya could find a place in the Indian team. Rahul’s cousin Deepak Chahar could also make the cut.
Sakariya impressed for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL edition this time, picking seven wickets in seven matches.
Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Karnataka opener Devdutt Padikkal is likely to be one of the three openers India will travel with besides Dhawan and Shaw.
While four of the five national selectors contacted by IANS haven’t responded yet to queries on the team, Dhawan looks to be the best bet to captain the India team in Sri Lanka due to his experience and also the fact that he has led his state side, Delhi, in domestic cricket, including Ranji Trophy.
The 35-year-old has played 34 Test matches, 142 ODIs and 65 T20 Internationals.
Dhawan was also the leading run-getter in the IPL 2021 edition, aggregating 380 runs in eight matches at an average of 54.38 for Delhi Capitals.
He and Shaw formed a solid opening pair for Delhi Capitals, who were on top of the points table before the tournament was postponed.
Dhawan was deputy to Rohit Sharma during the 2018 Nidahas Trophy that India won despite the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) resting key players.
Some of the youngsters who featured in the Nidahas Trophy T20 tournament are now an integral part of the Test side that is travelling to England.
Washington Sundar, Mohammed Siraj, Rishabh Pant, Axar Patel, KL Rahul and Shardul Thakur, who were part of the India T20 squad for Nidahas Trophy, are now part of the India Test side with Rohit.
A 20-member India side under Virat Kohli will be travelling to England soon for the World Test Championship final against New Zealand and a five-Test series against England.
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