Delhi Capitals had their best IPL season in the year 2020. The franchise from the capital city reached their first final - in their 13th season - where they were humbled by the invincible Mumbai Indians.
It was still a campaign to remember for Delhi which hinted towards a squad for the future. Although, like most other sides, they also encountered a phase built around perplexing questions. They romped through their opponents in the first half of the tournament, winning six out of their first eight games. In a second half of stark contrast, they won only two of their remaining six games of the league stage. Every little vulnerability of their side was suddenly glaring brightly for their opponents to exploit. Delhi go into the 2021 auction with the task of addressing those shortcomings. The players they have retained and released indicate they are heading in the right direction.
Delhi released eight players. They vented three overseas spots letting go off Alex Carey, Jason Roy, Keemo Paul, Daniel Sams and Sandeep Lamichhane. Carey and Roy are top-order players which Delhi have in abundance. Sams failed to pick a wicket in the three games he played. Paul did not get a game and Lamichhane, though a skilled leg-spinner, may have been released to gain an extra overseas spot. The other leggie, Amit Mishra showcased he is still a force to reckon with - three wickets in as many games at an economy of 7.2 before fracturing his finger - which may have also prompted Delhi to release Lamichhane.
Though, it was surprising to see Delhi release Harshal Patel who can be a handy pacer on sluggish wickets and can contribute with the bat. One can say Delhi did not use Harshal to his full potential.
Not to forget, Delhi retained Chris Woakes who did not appear for them in the 2020 season. The decision could be a countermeasure to a supposedly high demand of pace bowling all-rounders in the auction.
DC best XI based on the current squad-
Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer (c), Shimron Hetmyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Axar Patel, R Ashwin, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Ishant Sharma/Avesh Khan
Delhi have the same requisites for the 2021 auction which they had prior to the 2020 auction. Learning from the mistakes made last time, a wiser approach will see Delhi shape an imperious squad.
Requirement 1: Middle-order power-hitter
Delhi signed Shimron Hetmyer for this role in the 2020 auction. However, the left-hander did not produce the desired results and Delhi were one of the lesser threatening sides with the bat in the death overs.
With INR 13.4 crore in the kitty, Delhi would hunt for a better alternative to Hetmyer. In fact, that should be their top priority. Their best options rest in Glenn Maxwell and Sam Billings but obtaining them rests on how hard other sides - with larger purses - press for their services. In less lucrative options, Delhi can bid for Ravi Bopara, Colin Ingram, Rassie van der Dussen and a few more.
Requirement 2: Back-up Indian wicketkeeper
No other side will be looking for an Indian wicket-keeping option as much as Delhi. Reality struck them when Rishabh Pant was injured for a few games and they had to reconstruct their batting order to slot Carey in. Carey’s release suggests Delhi have identified the issue and will go after an Indian wicketkeeper.
India’s domestic system currently proposes Vishnu Vinod and Mohammed Azharuddeen as apt options for Delhi. Both hail from Kerala and showed what they are capable of in this format during the recently concluded 2021 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Vinod has played for the Bangalore franchise before but it will be the first time for Azharuddeen in IPL as both the batsmen are expected to get picked in this auction.
Requirement 3: Indian finisher
Marcus Stoinis has emerged into a key player for Delhi. To use his primary skillset - his batting - to full potential, Delhi would want to open with him in which case the number six spot will be vacant. They have the untested Lalit Yadav but another option will secure a key position in the lower-order. Stoinis as an opener will also immune Delhi from Prithvi Shaw’s dodgy form of late without compromising on power-hitting at the top.
Delhi’s best bet in the current auction scenario is Shivam Dube. He maybe inconsistent but if Delhi obtain a solid middle-order overseas batsman, as suggested above, they will have the cushion to absorb his low returns if they come at a high strike-rate. Plus, Dube will guarantee Delhi as many as seven bowling options. Tamil Nadu’s Shahrukh Khan is another option that could be on Delhi’s radar.
Requirement 4: Back-up pacer
The lack of effective Indian pacers in the squad - only Ishant Sharma and Avesh Khan - can make Delhi run after a back-up overseas pacer. They have Chris Woakes in case either one of Kagiso Rabada or Anrich Nortje gets injured but the Englishman himself has not played T20 cricket since August, 2018.
Since this is a back-up role, Delhi would not be willing to spend much on it and rather settle for an emerging fast bowler. Young Aussie pacers who did well in the 2020/21 Big Bash League season stand a great chance given Ricky Ponting, Delhi’s coach, was one of the commentators throughout the competition. Nathan Ellis, Riley Meredith, Wes Agar, Billy Stanlake, Ben Dwarshuis come to the forefront on this criteria.
Delhi have 13.4 crore remaining in the purse. For other teams, filling four key positions with such amount would seem tough but in Delhi’s case, two departments - back-ups in wicketkeeping and pace bowling - should not take a massive hit on their purse. Not to forget, only two of the aforementioned four gaps go to overseas players which means they will still have an overseas spot in hand. It can be used to further embolden any other aspect of the squad, which will depend on the proceedings of the auction.