Delhi Capitals, who have not won any silverware so far, are best placed this season to pick up the trophy and start a dominant phase in IPL history. Capitals have managed to build a balanced team along with like for like replacement for every player which can be key in year’s COVID affected IPL.
The Delhi franchise in IPL has always remained a team that has the potential to perform well but somehow has always ended performing below par, being the only team in IPL history to never qualify for a final. They have qualified for the knockouts on four different occasions, but that could never be converted into a trophy or even a final. However, this young blood Delhi team under the captaincy of Shreyas Iyer has been quite different from its previous avatars, where they had all sorts of issues with the squad. They looked quite formidable last year, making it to the playoffs for the first time in 7 years, alongside being level on points with four-time winners MI and three-time winners CSK.
One of the best things this franchise has done is it has built its core around Indian players. They have Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order to give them explosive starts, followed by Ajinkya Rahane at three, who will be able to add stability at the top. Then, in the middle order, they have skipper Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant, and Shimron Hetmyer, making it one of the most compact top 6 any team could ask for. While Pant and Hetmyer have the ability to take the game away from the opposition in a flash, Iyer completes the dynamic trio with support, stability, and firepower when needed.
After the top six, Australian allrounder Marcus Stoinis will add strength to the lower middle order, known for his match-winning cameos with the bat and ball. In the bowling department, spinners will be led by the experienced R Ashwin, who was traded from KXIP, and will be accompanied by Sandeep Lamichhane, adding variation to the spin attack. South African powerhouse Kagiso Rabada will be expected to lead the pace attack, along with veteran Ishant Sharma, who had a decent run last season, picking up 13 wickets at an economy of 7.58. This is the probable playing eleven Delhi will stick to in most of their matches, ticking all the boxes in every department.
The hot and humid weather of the UAE will definitely take a physical toll on the players as they will have to play according to Indian time, which is not a great time to be out in UAE let alone play cricket. Hence, better player management will be required from all teams. Not only that but the bio-bubble will have a mental strain on players, which might require them to take a few days off. So, a successful franchise this year will not be the one having the best team, but it will be the one having the most depth in their squad. Delhi seems to have taken care of this as well, having like for like replacement ready literally for every position.
If the openers have to be given rest Rahane can open the innings along with Stoinis, who has done pretty well at this spot for Melbourne Stars in BBL. Iyer can take the number 3 spot if Rahane has to be given rest and Rahane can do the same for number 4 if Iyer needs to be left out. Alex Carey is a like for like replacement for Pant, both of them having similar batting styles. If Hetmyer’s role is free it can be taken up by Carey or Stoinis and if Stoinis requires rest, he can be replaced by Keemo Paul.
In the bowling department, Amit Mishra can replace Sandeep and Ashwin can be replaced by Mishra or Axar depending upon the requirement. Rabada can be replaced with Nortje and Ishant Sharma can be replaced with Mohit Sharma. Apart from this uncapped players Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel and Rahul Tewatia might be given few matches to give rest to some of their players. Its as if Delhi has a similar secondary team with them, so when their plan does not work out with the original playing eleven, they can tweak the team to fit their plans and execute them with perfection.
The inexperience of last year has also been fixed by DC with the addition of Rahane and Ashwin in the team. Both the players have immense experience as a captain and as a player will be the deciding factor in crunch situations. They will be able to guide the young players in tough pressure situations, which will reduce the chances of them choking at crucial junctions. Iyer might also find it helpful to share his plans with both of them and take their opinion on his decisions since they have much more leadership experience than him. Ricky Ponting’s contribution as a coach cannot be ignored as well. In his first year as a coach, the team made it to the knockouts, hence, he must be credited for some of that success. He definitely adds lots of experience and leadership value to the setup, which the inexperienced players could really make use of.
It’s not as if this team has only been good on paper, they have delivered in matches. After being revamped, they reached knockouts for the first time last year. They even won the first playoff match against SRH, but lost to CSK in the second playoff match and ended up the second runner up. This performance becomes even more impressive, considering the fact that it was the first time Iyer was leading a team in IPL, being the youngest IPL captain. It not only showed the potential he has as a captain but also highlighted the execution capabilities of the team against veteran teams like Mumbai Indians, whom they defeated in the opening match last year.
Due to COVID, IPL will be played in UAE, where wickets are on the slower side. This might be the best thing that could have happened for DC, as their team is tailor-made to perform in these situations. Ashwin, Sandeep, Axar, and Mishra would be itching to bowl on the tracks of UAE, which will give them lots of assistance. Apart from a strong spin lineup, they also have the likes of Stoinis and Keemo Paul, who love to take pace off their deliveries. This would become a nightmare for batsmen real quick.
Another benefit that DC would have from IPL moving to another country is that all the teams will have to start from scratch and will have to adjust to the venues. No team would be having the home advantage which would make a level playing field for all the teams and with the squad that DC have which is extremely suited to the conditions, they emerge as clear favourites this time around to get their hands on the trophy.