After years of hits and misses, Team Delhi reached their maiden finals of the Indian T20 League in the 2020 edition but finished as the second-best. This was seen as a sign of rejuvenation for a team that often stalled when a winning opportunity knocked on the door.
With Rishabh Pant taking over as Delhi captain in place of the injured Shreyas Iyer, onlookers are curious if the franchise can indeed end their title drought this year. However, considering their performances last term - where they lost just two league games in the first nine before winning one in the last five, consistency is something the 23-year-old will demand from his team-mates.
Delhi kick off their Indian T20 League 2021 season against Chennai at the Wankhede Stadium on Saturday, April 10, and upon closer look of their squad depth, it is safe to say the franchise can possibly go the distance in the latest edition.
Team Delhi squad
Shreyas Iyer’s absence is a massive blow to Delhi’s batting strategy in the Indian T20 League but the team can somehow fill the void with some powerful knocks from Steve Smith - acquired for a meagre fee of Rs 2.20 crores.
The 2020 finalists retained 19 players and released six players - which included the likes of Alex Carey, Keemo Paul and Jason Roy - ahead of the February auctions.
With a purse of Rs 13.40 crores, Delhi weren’t expected to do much business but by adding Smith, Sam Billings (Rs 2 crores) and Umesh Yadav (Rs 1 crore), the team bolstered their options in the batting and pace bowling sector.
England all-rounder Tom Curran was the most expensive buy at Rs 5.25 crore and much will be expected from him in a pace line-up that consists of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Ishant Sharma, besides the 33-year-old Yadav.
Team Delhi squad for Indian T20 League 2021: Shreyas Iyer (ruled out), Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Ajinkya Rahane, Rishabh Pant (captain and wicket-keeper), Shimron Hetmyer, Marcus Stoinis, Chris Woakes, Ravichandran Ashwin, Axar Patel, Amit Mishra, Lalit Yadav, Pravin Dubey, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Ishant Sharma, Avesh Khan, Steve Smith, Umesh Yadav, Ripal Patel, Vishnu Vinod, Lukman Meriwala, Manimaran Siddarth, Tom Curran, Sam Billings
Team Delhi strength and weakness
Delhi is one of the few teams whose batting line-up is quite intimidating, and their performances in the 2020 season showcased their intent to challenge for the title. The likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant will be charged with laying the foundations for match-winning totals.
Prithvi Shaw, who had a forgettable campaign with Delhi last term, warmed up for the upcoming season with 800-plus runs in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and will look to prove his detractors wrong.
In Marcus Stoinis, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel, Delhi have some quality all-rounders who can chip in runs and also take wickets to place the tide of an Indian T20 League in their favour.
The middle-order batters had smashed 1290 runs last season, the most by batsmen in the #4 - #7 slot and the addition of Sam Billings should give an exciting injection to Delhi.
The presence of Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Ishant Sharma already made Delhi’s bowling attack something for opposition to fear. But, it is their tendency to leak runs in crucial periods - such as the death overs - which could ultimately cost them a win. They have conceded 595 runs in the powerplay overs - third-most by any team. Pant must devise an effective plan around his bowlers and see that his strengths in the batting and bowling departments are equally balanced.
For Rishabh Pant, there isn’t a recognised wicket-keeper back-up for him in the Delhi team. Considering the new captain will have new responsibilities to shoulder, and fatigue likely to take a toll on him, the Ricky Ponting-coached team will have to shift their team dynamics should they give the keeping duties to Sam Billings.
Who can be the highest run-scorer for Team Delhi?
Rishabh Pant has had an enjoyable 2021 so far, with a string of match-winning performances in the recent series against England convincing the management to hand him the reigns of the Delhi captaincy. The 23-year-old has stacked 2079 runs in just 68 games at an average and strike rate of 35.23 and 151.97 respectively, a sign that he is prepared to anchor Delhi’s charge for a maiden Indian T20 League crown.
Who can be the highest wicket-taker for Team Delhi?
Looking up at Delhi’s bowling options, one can simply say the Kagiso Rabada will be the champion bowler for the team in the 2021 edition. However, those who have followed the league closely, Amit Mishra will be the leading contender to play a key role in the upcoming campaign. The 38-year-old, with 160 wickets in the T20 extravaganza, featured in three games last term before a finger injury ended his campaign. Mishra is on the cusp of two major milestones - 11 wickets to become the highest wicket-taker in the Indian T20 League and five matches to become the first Delhi player with 100 appearances in the cash-rich league.
Where will Team Delhi finish in Indian T20 League 2021?
Delhi’s current team roster is an indication that they could make it into the playoffs round at the very least, and the presence of experienced figures in Dhawan, Ashwin, Smith and Rahane will be influential to their cause. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to perfect execution of their strengths and that is something Rishabh Pant will need to work in tandem with head coach Ricky Ponting.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Sajjad Hussain