The Capitals’ run to the playoffs in 2020 and 2021 were in part fuelled by the excellent returns of their fast bowlers: Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje accounted for 52 wickets together in the UAE in 2020, and Avesh Khan hit a purple patch the next season to form a terrific alliance with Rabada. So when Avesh and Rabada were both purchased by other franchises in the IPL auction, the Capitals had to look elsewhere to retain the strength of their pace attack. Nortje was the only prominent fast bowler from the previous seasons to be retained; with his participation doubtful, a brand new line-up of pacemen will be seen in action, a group carefully chosen also to add variety.

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“Our pace bowlers have performed well in the last few seasons, they were in demand, and they departed for a price at which it was difficult to retain them with the purse we have. So we’ve gone for bowlers with a high potential, or somebody who has performed at that level,” Vinod Bisht, interim CEO, Delhi Capitals, told Sportstar .

“Each [bowler chosen] has performed for one or the other franchises in their earlier versions, when they were with different franchises. Khaleel [Ahmed], Mustafizur [Rahman] – they have been regulars in the IPL. With the kind of experience with them, and with Shardul [Thakur] also with Delhi Capitals, there can be a right-hand-left-hand combination so they’ll bring in variety which we have been looking for. They all have potential; they need to now prove it. And I’m very sure under the coaching of Ricky Ponting and James Hopes, they will achieve a similar standard which the earlier quartet had achieved for us,” Bisht said.

Shardul, at Rs. 10.75 crore, was the costliest purchase for the Capitals in the auction. The Mumbai and India seamer was picked also for his batting capabilities, after his spectacular cameos with the bat in Australia and England. “If you would have followed last season, you would have seen teams going in with six bowling options. Even seven bowling options. So, barring the top three in most of the franchises, teams have [opted for] seven bowling options. Each of those bowling options has added a variety to the bowling attack. In our different pitches the requirement of each of those attacks is valuable, so when we went in for Shardul, the idea was to have more number of all-rounders in the team who could bat as well as bowl. So that was the idea vis-a-vis a fourth bowler; we weighed on the side of Shardul and that is why even for the high price [we bought him] – we wanted somebody who could finish games for us and at the same time be among the wickets. And is able to strike on a regular basis,” Bisht elaborated.

Another player offering expertise with both bat and ball is Mitchell Marsh, whose services were acquired for Rs 6.5 crore. Last year, Marsh was Australia’s best performer with the bat in its white-ball tours of Bangladesh and West Indies – two sobering tours, full of defeats - and played a crucial role in the team’s T20 World Cup triumph in the UAE. Marsh’s inclusion provides some comfort to the Capitals as it makes up for the departure of Marcus Stoinis.

“Stoinis was not able to bowl for the last one or one-and-a-half seasons. Mitchell’s bowling brings in additional talent with us, and it gives an additional option for the captain to bank on, to have a sixth bowler in our ranks. His versatility, is his ability to bat from 3-6 – in any of those slots – he could even adopt a finishing role for us which Stoinis did on many occasions, and brought us a lot of wins. So, along with that kind of a skill he’s a great finisher, and with his arm he can give us 2-4 overs in a game, depending on the way the pitch behaves. He’s been a great find in terms of Stoinis in that finishing role.”

But perhaps the biggest pick for the Capitals in the auction was David Warner.

“[Thanks to] auction dynamics right at the beginning, when people were just warming up, we were able to purchase him at that price (Rs. 6.25 crore). Very happy to see him in the Delhi Capitals team; after having a bad experience in the last season in the IPL, he will look forward to resurrect himself and come back with a vengeance,” Bisht said. And as far as the spin-bowling unit is concerned, the Capitals have shown faith in the capabilities of Kuldeep Yadav, who hasn’t been at his best in the IPL in the last two seasons.

“We have no doubt in the kind of skills he had, but because he was low on confidence he couldn’t perform. And we have the kind of support net around the players – the support staff, the management – where anybody a little low is supported and encouraged in order to realise his potential.”

Among Capitals’ other purchases, Yash Dhull can’t just be a minor footnote, as the U-19 World Cup star is a product of its training academy at the Bal Bhavan school in Dwarka, New Delhi. Bisht calls it “a great story for our franchise,” and “a great story for grassroots cricket.” And as far as the lesser-known players picked up at the auction are concerned — including Sarfaraz Khan, Ripal Patel, Lalit Yadav, and Ashwin Hebbar — the Capitals wouldn’t shy away from giving them opportunities, according to Bisht.

“This time we followed a very elaborate process of auction strategy as well as talent scout. We had talent scouts with us who followed many games either in person or through media. They drew a pool which we filtered through a number of iterations and discussions with coaches as well as the talent-scout team. So it was very satisfying to see that we’ve [filled] each slot from the pool. Of course, in the end, every team comes out satisfied from the auction and have good things to say, but I'll say here we'll have to keep our fingers crossed and the proof of the pudding lies in the eating.”