In the absence of Rishabh Pant, Delhi Capitals have made the worst start possible to their 2023 Indian Premier League season. None of what they have touched thus far has turned into gold, and given how their key players are failing, it might be just a long season for them.
Delhi might desperately need a breather but the format of the tournament is such that breathers are the last thing a team gets. They go up against a Rajasthan side, who were dominant in their first outing and were so close to a win in their second outing. Against Punjab Kings, the margin of defeat for them was just five runs.
Luckily for Rajasthan, they don’t need to travel, with Delhi visiting them at the Barsapara Cricket Stadium in Guwahati, and having played one clash there, it is advantage Rajasthan. But can Delhi topple them to get their first win of the season?
Things to watch out for
Can Royals maximize the influence of Padikkal?
It is a question that has haunted them in the past and still continues to haunt them. Rajasthan at the auction table made a swift bid to get the Karnataka batter Devdutt Padikkal in their setup but with no slot available at the top of the order, they have had to slot him in the middle-order. Has that move worked?
Most of Padikkal’s success has come at the top of the order – 1015 runs at an average of 29 – but Rajasthan have force-fitted him at No.4, a position where he hasn’t had good success. At No.4, the left-hander has just scored 203 runs off 165 balls, and, on more occasions than one, has struggled massively.
The other night too, he scored 21 off 26 balls in a near 200-run chase. That’s where the problem lies, he’s being slotted as he’s good against spin. While data does back that when it comes to run-accumulation — he has an average of 44 — his strike-rate of 124 is not quite eye-catching. That’s where Rajasthan need to start thinking.
Prithvi Shaw’s struggle coincides with Delhi’s worst start
David Warner might be the heart and soul of the team but if not for Prithvi Shaw’s flamboyance, Delhi are just another stuttering T20 side. Since IPL 2021, Delhi openers have scored the most runs in the powerplay (1277), and have the best run-rate (9.1) while at it. In fact, no other team has managed to forge consistency with the fireworks as they have done.
In two clashes this season, Delhi’s openers have scored 71 runs, with a strike-rate of just around 121. On paper, that’s not bad but considering how the other openers have started thus far, Delhi are way below. A big reason for that? The lackluster form of Shaw. Shaw is a match-winner but he hasn’t quite lit the tournament up till now, with just 19 runs in 14 balls, and two dismissals.
With the Royals having a favourable match-up going on against Shaw, it would need a big performance from the right-hander to tackle his feared bowling type – left-arm pace.
End of the road for Sarfaraz?
Might be premature but Sarfaraz Khan’s batting has been a big worry for Delhi Capitals. He scored a 30 in the second game but 30 off 34 balls batting first? You wouldn’t take it. Given that they don’t need Sarfaraz to keep anymore, does it make sense to persist with him anymore? That’s where Delhi will have some options to ponder, one being Yash Dhull, second Lalit Yadav and a third in Ripal Patel.
There is an excellent case for the inclusion of Dhull, who has performed impressively in the domestic circuit, where he has scored 363 runs at an average of 72.60 and a strike-rate of 131.52. Across all the encounters, the right-hander showed a great appetite for runs and also smacked both pacers and spinners equally.
On the other hand, off-spinner Lalit offers both batting and bowling credentials for the franchise, especially against a team that has a stack of left-handers. Playing Lalit makes more sense, considering how they can effortlessly bat someone like Rilee Rossouw up the batting order, giving the right-hander the liberty to go after the bowling in the middle order.
- Rajasthan Royals have a ready-made match-up for Shaw in the powerplay – Trent Boult. A large part of Mumbai’s success in the 2020 IPL campaign against Delhi was because of how Boult negated the Shaw-threat early on. In 25 deliveries against Shaw, Boult has dismissed him three times, with a strike-rate of just 112. Not just that, the opener has a false-shot % of 40 against the Kiwi speedster.
- Sanju Samson doesn’t have a weakness as such when it comes to a bowling type but against Axar Patel, there is a match-up that Delhi could ponder. Not just in terms of wickets but even otherwise, Axar is a great defensive option in a stadium that rains runs against someone as threatening as Samson. Samson has a strike-rate of just 111 and has lost his wicket twice against the left-arm spinner.
The Barsapara Cricket Stadium is a high-scoring venue. The batters here have operated at a scoring rate of 10.6 and an average of 49.8 in the two matches that have been played here since 2022. India played a T20I against South Africa in October 2022 and won by only 16 runs despite amassing 237/3 in their first innings. In fact, only six wickets fell in that game across 20 overs.
Meanwhile, Rajasthan recently played Punjab and both teams managed a 190-plus score. After Punjab slammed 197/4 in their 20 overs, Rajasthan got 192/7 in response. Both fast bowlers (57.4) and spinners (53.4) have an average of way above 50 but the latter have been slightly more economical (9.2 v 11.3). You know what to do, get as many batters as possible.
For Rajasthan, there are injury concerns surrounding Jos Buttler, who hurt himself with a diving catch. Who will replace him? Joe Root's IPL debut incoming?
Rajasthan - Yashasvi Jaiswal, Jos Buttler, Sanju Samson (c & wk), Devdutt Padikkal, Riyan Parag, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Ravichandran Ashwin, Trent Boult, KM Asif/Sandeep Sharma, Yuzvendra Chahal
Mitchell Marsh is expected to go back home for a week for his wedding and in that case, Rovman Powell is ideally placed to walk into the setup.
Delhi - Prithvi Shaw, David Warner (c), Rilee Rossouw, Rovman Powell, Lalith Yadav, Axar Patel, Abishek Porel (wk), Kuldeep Yadav, Anrich Nortje, Khaleel Ahmed, Mukesh Kumar