Delhi Capitals (DC) made a serious improvement in the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the 2020 season, reaching the final for the first time. However, the formidable Mumbai Indians (MI) proved to be too much for the franchise to overcome as Shreyas Iyer and his team were defeated by five wickets in the final.
Iyer has proved himself to be an an outstanding leader and potentially a successor to Virat Kohli for the national side down the line. The form of the 25-year-old allowed his team to compete at the top of the standings throughout the competition. Although it was evident down the stretch that he and his team-mates lacked experience in the clutch moments.
DC were in a position to beat out MI for top spot in the IPL standings, but collapsed at the wrong point of the season. DC lost four out of their last five matches, rallying to secure second place by beating Royal Challengers Bangalore in their regular season finale. MI loomed large in the first qualifier, easing past DC, although Iyer and his men did earn a rematch in the final after ousting Sunrisers Hyderabad from the post-season.
Mumbai’s nous in the final was on show to claim their fifth crown, easing their way over the line. Delhi made intriguing progress in 2020, and it will be interesting to see whether they can maintain their momentum amid reports of a change to the IPL structure in 2021.
Can DC keep their core intact?
The reports suggesting that the BCCI are ready to add a ninth team to the Indian Premier League will not be greeted with enthusiasm by Delhi’s hierarchy. Just when DC had formed a squad capable of challenging for the crown after years of underachievement, they are faced with the possibility of a mega auction and losing several key players.
If a mega auction would occur it would only allow DC to lock down three of their stars, while placing a further two with a RTM (right-to-match) clause on their contracts. Delhi would still have the chance to assemble a quality roster, but there’s no guarantee the chemistry would be the same as the 2020 outfit.
Iyer has to be the first selection with one of their lock-up picks. The skipper was outstanding last season, finishing fourth in the race for the Orange Cap with 519 runs from his 17 innings. He played in every match and scored an unbeaten 65 in the final, although it was in losing effort. Iyer is the heartbeat of the team, and certainly a player on the rise in all formats in domestic and international cricket. Delhi would be mad to let him reach the auction as he would certainly not be short of suitors.
Kagiso Rabada was Delhi’s best player last season, earning the Purple Cap for taking the most wickets in the tournament. The South African claimed 30 wickets in 17 matches at an outstanding average of 18.26. The 25-year-old had his issues against Mumbai, but he’s certainly a player that DC have to retain on the basis of his performances over the last two years. Rabada will only improve as he gains further experience, especially in the pressure matches.
Is youth the way forward?
As it stands, Delhi are one of the leading contenders behind only the Indians at 5.50 in the odds provided by Betway to win the 2021 Indian Premier League. However, a lot will rest on the squad they are able to muster for the new season. Iyer and Rabada are not the only stars in the team and one of the key issues will be whether to move forward with experience or youth.
Shikhar Dhawan made history in the 2020 campaign, becoming the first player in IPL history to score back-to-back centuries. Only KL Rahul scored more runs than the 34-year-old last term. When he was on form Dhawan was exceptional, but there were too many occasions when was off the boil, notably against the Indians. Delhi may have seen the best of the opener last term, although using a RTM tag could be a solid option.
Prithvi Shaw could rise to replace Dhawan. He had his moments in 2020, although he struggled down the stretch. Rishabh Pant is the future of wicket-keeping in India, having taken the reins from MS Dhoni at international level. The 23-year-old showed that he can deliver under pressure, scoring a half-century alongside Iyer in the final, although he was out of sorts for the majority of the last campaign.
There are plenty of quality players available to maintain a young core for DC. There’s hope they can grow as a unit to get over the hump next season, although there is plenty work ahead of Iyer and Delhi’s hierarchy in a potential off-season reshuffle.
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