Can a fresh look usher in a change of fortunes for Delhi Capitals?
The franchise, based in the Indian capital and formerly called Delhi Daredevils, has not enjoyed much success. For the last six seasons, it has been finishing in the sixth position, or lower. In 2018, the appointment of Gautam Gambhir as captain — he had clinched two titles with Kolkata Knight Riders — and of Ricky Ponting as head coach — he had one title with Mumbai Indians — promised much, but delivered little. Gambhir stepped down from the side after six matches, and the team finished at the bottom of the points table.
This time, the club has a new name, a new logo and a new jersey. There is a “new vision” too, according to Ponting, and an opportunity for its flamboyant and seemingly fearless captain Shreyas Iyer to turn it around.
The squad is studded with numerous big hitters who can single-handedly influence the course of contests. Besides the local duo of Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant — both India players — Capitals has the experience of South African all-rounder Chris Morris, and New Zealand’s Colin Munro, who has a 14-ball half-century in Twenty20 Internationals — the second-fastest in the format — to his credit.
Iyer himself can hit the ball to all parts of the ground at will. He comes into the tournament in good form, having hit two centuries — including a 55-ball 147 — in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Another player oozing with confidence is Hanuma Vihari. The batsman, bought for Rs2 crore by the franchise, has enjoyed fruitful tours of England and Australia with the Indian team, and sparkled brightly in the recent Irani Cup contest, scoring two centuries. The IPL, however, is an unconquered arena for him; to leave his imprint here, too, he may wish to improve his Twenty20 strike-rate (111.92).
Pant, on the other hand, will have no such worry. He had an impressive strike-rate of 173.60 last season; with 684 runs in 14 innings at 52.61, he was the team’s highest run-getter. Now, he has made a name for himself in the national team as well.
Iyer will also have four potent spinners to choose from — leg-spinners Amit Mishra and Sandeep Lamichhane, left-arm orthodox spinner Axar Patel, and off-spinner Jalaj Saxena. Depending on the requirements, the team management will likely adopt a horses-for-courses approach in determining the spin unit in the line-up.
And among the fast bowlers, there is raw pace in Kagiso Rabada, and swing and guile in Trent Boult. Old warhorse Ishant Sharma, a local, will also bolster the department. From the Caribbean, there is Keemo Paul, who was productive with the red ball for Guyana last season; besides, in December, 2018, he took a five-wicket haul in a T20I against Bangladesh, showing his potential in the shortest format.
The squad may be strong, but the big question will be — can the side develop a rhythm and sustain momentum? Good leadership is the first step towards any team’s success, and it remains to be seen whether Iyer can carve a niche for himself as captain. He certainly has the appetite, as he revealed to his franchise: “When you get that sense of belief in yourself and also your team-mates, you can get the best out of your team.”
Additionally, he will also have to excel in the tactical side of his captaincy. He will have a clean slate to start from.