Sunday , April 11 2021

IPL 2021: Rishabh Pant braces for captaincy challenge as Delhi Capitals eye maiden title

IPL 2021: Rishabh Pant braces for captaincy challenge as Delhi Capitals eye maiden title

IPL 2021: Rishabh Pant braces for captaincy challenge as Delhi Capitals eye maiden title

In the previous edition of IPL 2020, the Capitals came close to ending their wait for a first IPL title. Instead, they faltered to serial winners Mumbai Indians, who lifted their fifth trophy in the tournament. A lot has changed since – the captain, for starters. Rishabh Pant, whose world seemed to have collapsed after a poor IPL outing that lost him a place in India’s limited-overs squads, was named the captain of the franchise in Shreyas Iyer’s absence – thanks to his scintillating return of form in the international circuit.

Life has come full circle for Pant whose dominant show in Tests against Australia and England won him a place in T20Is and ODIs against the latter. With a consistent show at a brilliant strike rate in limited-overs formats, Pant emerged as a top contender to lead the Capitals after Iyer’s shoulder injury ruled him out of the tournament.

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The franchise also welcomes overseas stars like Australia’s Steve Smith, and the English trio of Sam Billings, Tom Curran and Chris Woakes. Woakes had been a part of Capitals earlier too but missed the previous season.

As the Capitals prepare for the 2021 edition of IPL, let’s take a brief look into the squad’s orientation:


Despite the absence of Iyer, the Capitals derive their top-order core from the remainder of Indian players from the quartet: Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant. All the three are expected to remain, for the time being, an undroppable part of the XI. Shaw worked on his batting with Pravin Amre (DC batting consultant) and reaped rewards with a best-ever season at the Vijay Hazare Trophy, where he broke the record for most runs by an individual.

In the middle-order, Stoinis plays a major role for the side alongside the aggressors like Shimron Hetmyer and Sam Billings, who might be competing for a fourth overseas spot. DC roped in Steve Smith in the 2021 IPL Auction, and he is likely to start at number three in the XI – at least until the franchise has all of their overseas options at disposal.

Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin provide handy batting options at 7th and 8th position respectively.


South Africa’s bowling duo of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje lit up the IPL 2021 with consistent performances for the Capitals. However, DC have new arrivals in Tom Curran and Chris Woakes, which will be competing for places in the XI. In the spin department, Ashwin and Axar continue to be the first-choice players alongside Amit Mishra, whose 2020 season was cut short with an injury. Ashwin was the top wicket-taker for the Capitals in the powerplay last year, and the off-spinner is set to assume a significantly senior role in leadership this year, following the absence of Iyer.

The Capitals’ Indian crop of pacers includes India stars Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav who can offer flexibility and balance to the side.

Key player:

Rishabh Pant: Ever since his debut, the wicketkeeper-batsman had the pressure of undue expectations due to constant comparisons with Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Incidentally, Pant will now begin his captaincy stint in the tournament against MS Dhoni’s Chennai Super Kings!

Unsurprisingly, all eyes will be on Pant as he is set to embrace a new role for the franchise. His previous season with the Capitals was arguably the worst time of his career. The wicketkeeper-batsman failed to find a rhythm and also faced an injury that kept him out for a couple of games. His poor performances also ruled him out for limited-overs selection against Australia.

But the setback seemed to have given Pant a perspective, as he made a remarkable turnaround in the Tests against Australia and England, and eventually made a way back to ODIs and T20Is against the latter side. Pant has now established himself in the Indian T20I middle-order, too.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that the youngster was handed the captaincy despite the presence of stalwarts like Ashwin, Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith in the squad.

Expected XI:

Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Steve Smith (o), Rishabh Pant (c/wk), Shimron Hetmyer/Sam Billings (o), Marcus Stoinis (o), Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kagiso Rabada, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav

(Axar Patel is expected to remain absent from the first match as he tested positive for COVID-19 last week. Rabada and Nortje, meanwhile, landed in India earlier this week and are unlikely to play in the side’s opening game as well.)

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