Shreyas Iyer’s shoulder injury has ruled him out of the 2021 Indian T20 League campaign, serving as a big blow to Delhi’s aspirations to be a title contender.

The Delhi captain was expected to sit out at least the first half of the season, but having undergone a surgery, the Mumbai-born player won’t play a part in the entirety of the 14th edition and is a major doubt for the ICC T20 World Cup later this year.

Iyer’s absence has opened a significant void in the Delhi team, one from the perspective of a leader who inspired the franchise to a title contender and a batsman who can engineer a batting resistance.

Given we are less than two weeks away from the start of the 2021 season, it will be interesting to see who the 2020 finalists will select as their stand-in skipper for the latest edition of the T20 extravaganza.

Here we assess three options.

Ravichandran Ashwin

The probability of Ravichandran Ashwin becoming Delhi’s new captain is certainly high, given he is one of the best readers of the game.

Ashwin previously captained the Punjab franchise in the Indian T20 League, and though his record - 12 wins and 16 defeats in 28 games as captain - may not appeal to some, it is his perceptive thinking and flexible calls that can drive Delhi to the level of success as achieved in the last season.

Additionally, his good relationship with head coach Ricky Ponting and the players could also aid his cause, given he finished as Delhi’s third-highest wicket-taker in the 2020 edition with 13 wickets.

Steve Smith

Australia’s Steve Smith was a surprise buy by Delhi at the Indian T20 League auctions in February, as they secured his services for Rs 2.20 crores.

Compared to the other candidates on this list, Smith’s record as captain is the strongest - 25 wins and 17 defeats in 43 matches. The 31-year-old has captained the defunct Pune franchise and Rajasthan, but has managed to reach the finals of the competition just once (2017).

The argument around his candidacy to become Delhi’s captain will be his recent campaign, where he struggled as a captain and a player. However, considering his potential as a batsman - 2333 runs in 95 matches - onlookers will expect Smith to play in a role that is currently a concern in the Indian T20 League, viz overseas captains excelling as a batter.

While David Warner has proved himself in that role at Hyderabad, Steve Smith - should he be elected as captain - must put that role as priority to silence his critics.

Shikhar Dhawan

Shikhar Dhawan’s name may come up as a surprise, but if one has to choose between Rishabh Pant and the left-hander as a captain, it is quite evident that the latter holds the advantage given his experience as a player.

The 35-year-old has been one of the most prolific batsmen in the Indian T20 League in recent years, and for Delhi, he has been nothing short of a run machine. Dhawan has tallied 1,139 runs in just 33 games for the 2020 finalists, something that can appease the management’s interests of a skipper who can pile up the runs and command a solid relationship with the players.

Dhawan has previously led Hyderabad in the Indian T20 League, and that experience should be enough to lead his hometown team in the 14th edition of the cash-rich tournament.

Feature image courtesy: AFP / Sajjad Hussain