Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant takes over the Delhi Capitals' reins at a time when his batting has scaled new heights. His leadership skills will be severely tested as Delhi aim to to win their first IPL title. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

The Delhi Capitals are an immensely likeable squad. Young and talented, they are a spritely bunch brimming with enthusiasm. Over the last three years, the talents have matured into experienced campaigners. But they are yet to win the Indian Premier League.

In 13 years of the IPL, Delhi made their first final last season. With a balanced side, it was their best chance. But the Mumbai Indians were too strong a hurdle to surmount in the title clash.

Delhi have picked up the pieces to mount another challenge this year. Even before the campaign got underway, they have suffered a wincing blow with the loss of skipper Shreyas Iyer to injury. He’s been an inspirational leader, and Iyer’s batting has been critical to the side’s fortunes.

How strong is the Delhi attack?

Vice-captain Rishabh Pant, who takes over the captaincy, has been in the form of his life with matchwinning knocks for India. At 23, he’s the fifth-youngest captain in the IPL after Virat Kohli, Steven Smith, Suresh Raina and Iyer.

How will he fare in his first major campaign? Hopefully, he can channelise the aggression from his batting to the captaincy as well. Maybe, that’s the tonic Delhi needs. He can always seek advice from Steven Smith, who’s successfully led Australia, and Ajinkya Rahane, who steered India to a Test series win in Australia.

Delhi still have much of the strong side they fielded last year. Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje were too hot to handle on the UAE pitches, but on docile Indian strips, they may not be as effective. But these are top quality bowlers who can perform well irrespective of the surface.

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Ravichandran Ashwin will be a bigger threat, as the wickets are bound to offer some assistance. And Axar Patel, who’s had a dream India Test debut, will only be too keen to stretch the purple patch to the IPL. Former India leg-spinner Amit Mishra is back after having hobbled off with an injury in the UAE. So spin is secure in their hands.

Allrounder Marcus Stoinis has always come to Delhi’s aid at crucial junctures, and then there’s Chris Woakes. Tom Curran too. Shimron Hetmyer must be looking for a better outing this year, having failed to provide the momentum in the middle order. That’s where Pant’s hot streak will come in handy.

Marcus Stoinis of Delhi Capitals hits a six
Marcus Stoinis is the man to watch. Last year, his big-hitting pulled the Delhi Capitals out of tight spots in several games. Rishabh Pant will be counting on a repeat of that performance. Image Credit: Sportzpics for BCCI

But Delhi’s Achilles heel last year was the starts. Opener Shikhar Dhawan came in good in some matches, but Prithvi Shaw’s wretched form hurt them the most. Not only did they lose wickets in the powerplay, but it also robbed them of the chance to accelerate early. Shaw has been in ominous form in the Vijay Hazare Trophy matches this year, and that should cheer head coach Ricky Ponting.

Barring Iyer’s absence, Delhi are well-placed to launch another major effort to win the elusive maiden title. But they are still not as formidable as the Mumbai Indians. But then it’s cricket. Anything is possible.

Delhi start their title bid in Mumbai on April 10 with a match against the Chennai Super Kings.

Vital statistics

Owners: GMR Group and JSW Sports

Captain: Rishabh Pant

Star player: Marcus Stoinis

Head coach: Ricky Ponting

Best finish: Runner up (2020)

Home ground: Arun Jaitley Stadium, New Delhi

Full squad

Ajinkya Rahane, Prithvi Shaw, Ripal Patel, Shikhar Dhawan, Shimron Hetmyer, Steven Smith, Amit Mishra, Anrich Nortje, Avesh Khan, Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada, Lukman Meriwala, Manimaran Siddharth, Pravin Dubey, Tom Curran, Umesh Yadav, Axar Patel, Chris Woakes, Lalit Yadav, Marcus Stoinis, Ravichandran Ashwin, Rishabh Pant, Sam Billings, and Vishnu Vinod