The CricViz Preview of the Delhi Capitals.
Delhi’s clearest strength is their domestic batting. Such is the wealth of Indian batting talent at the Capitals’ disposal they may not all find a spot in their starting XI. The star of the batting order is without a doubt Rishabh Pant, the left-handed wicket-keeper batsman has been the second best batsman in the league across the last three IPL seasons according to our Batting Impact measure, only behind David Warner. Pant will be alongside Delhi captain Shreyas Iyer in the middle order who is not in Pant’s class but is still one of the most highly regarded batting talents in India. At the top of the order Delhi have three Indian opening options in the form of tearaway Prithvi Shaw and the two anchors Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane – who was traded in from Rajasthan Royals, further bolstering an area of strength for the Capitals. Delhi have three overseas batting options in Shimron Hetmyer, Marcus Stoinis and Alex Carey and an all rounder in Keemo Paul so it is unlikely that all five Indian batsman find a spot in the team but the fact that they are so well stocked in that department gives them great flexibility around the rest of their team. Although the tournament is in the UAE the fact Delhi have a lot of Indian batsmen means they will be more familiar with subcontinental conditions than teams who are heavily reliant on overseas batsmen.
Right-hand, left-hand combinations
Delhi’s batting is also notable for the nice balance of right and left-handers. Dhawan, Pant, Hetmyer and Carey are all lefties while Shaw, Rahane, Iyer and Stoinis are righties. With Dhawan and Pant almost certain to play Delhi are likely to be in a position to play to match-ups as well as perhaps any team in the league, countering spin away from the bat and targeting shorter leg side boundaries.
Delhi’s spin bowling is a clear area of strength; they are well stocked with excellent spinners who provide variety of bowling types and operate across all three phases of the innings. The attack will be led by mystery spinner Ravichandran Ashwin and he has high quality domestic support from left-arm spinner Axar Patel and classical leg spinner Amit Mishra. Lalit Yadav also offers a classical off spin option. This Indian quartet can be bolstered by the new-age Nepalese leg spinner Sandeep Lamichhane who bowls flatter and faster than Mishra, complementing the veteran nicely. Sandeep is particularly brilliant in the Powerplay—across his career he has a strike rate of 12.5 in the phase, the best of any bowler to have taken at least 25 wickets in the phase.
Delhi’s clearest weakness is their pace bowling. South Africa’s Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje will be carrying a big burden for the Capitals alongside the all round pair of Paul and Daniel Sams because their domestic pace attack of Ishant Sharma, Harshal Patel, Mohit Sharma and Avesh Khan is notably weak. Given the structure of Delhi’s team at least one and probably two of these bowlers will be required. Patel’s cutters might be the best option given he can also contribute with the bat having been effectively used as a pinch hitter in the most recent edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. Delhi could do with Rabada—who is very good but not truly elite—making a step up this season to start mixing with the Bumrahs, Malingas and Archers of the world.
Death overs hitting
Delhi’s top order domestic batting is excellent but they do appear to lack power-hitting in the lower middle order. Domestic all rounders Axar and Ashwin are useful batsmen but they aren’t particularly adept at clearing the ropes while their overseas batsmen Carey and Stoinis are more at home nearer the top of the order while Carey is suited to the middle overs. Last year the only teams to score more slowly in the death overs than Delhi were Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals and Delhi have done little to remedy the problem by signing overseas players who have preferences earlier in the innings. The domestic options at the Capitals’ disposal at the top of the order means one potential solution to the problem could be Pant batting as low as five but this could quite quickly represent a misuse of resources if one of the best players in the league is left facing only a dozen balls and isn’t maximising his time at the crease. Overseas recruits Paul and Sams can be useful lower order hitters but they are far from proven or reliable in the phase. Delhi’s best hope in the period may be one of the top order guys batting deep and accelerating in the phase.
Delhi’s squad construction at this year’s auction was perplexing. With such a strong Indian core in top order batting and spin bowling they were set-up in a manner that suggested they needed to chase death overs hitters and pace bowlers at the auction. As it was only one of their overseas players: Nortje – fulfilled either of these roles with Hetmyer, Carey, Stoinis and Jason Roy (who has also since been ruled out) all being batsmen who prefer batting earlier in the innings. When you consider that Delhi also arguably have an excess of spin options with it being unlikely that Ashwin, Axar, Mishra and Sandeep play together (at one point Mayank Markande was also contracted to them before he was traded to Rajasthan) and local batsman with one of Shaw, Dhawan and Rahane likely to miss out – it raises serious questions around Delhi’s auction strategy and squad construction more generally. Rather than using overseas players to plug domestic gaps they have doubled down on the roles that they already had local players covering. That this isn’t necessarily a terminal problem is testament to the quality of their domestic options but their squad could have looked a lot better quite easily if they’d looked to plug their domestic gaps.
- Shikhar Dhawan (LH)
- Prithvi Shaw (RH)
- Shimron Hetmyer (LH)
- Shreyas Iyer (RH)
- Rishabh Pant (LH & WK)
- Marcus Stoinis (RH & RMF)
- Axar Patel (SLA)
- Ravi Ashwin (OB)
- Ishant Sharma (RFM)
- Kagiso Rabada (RF)
- Sandeep Lamichhane (LS)
Of Delhi’s eight overseas players Rabada is the only player who is guaranteed selection. Given the issues around the pace bowling they are probably going to need to pick at least one of Nortje, Paul and Sams, or go spin-heavy and pick Lamichhane, but they could also pick two of those four and go with a 1-3 overseas balance and pack the bowling. Which overseas batsman or all rounder they pick is also up for debate. Whichever option they do choose they are either going to be batting out of position or blocking the preferred position of an Indian option with Stoinis and Hetmyer best suited to the top order where Delhi have Dhawan, Shaw and Rahane, and Carey best suited in the middle order where they have Iyer and Pant.
Indian pace bowler
Delhi will need to pick at least one Indian seamer and the identity of that bowler remains unclear with Ishant, Harshal, Avesh and Mohit all competing for the vacancies. Ishant is the most heralded name thanks to his international exploits, while Mohit is a popular IPL pick but Patel’s left-arm pace (and useful lower order hitting) might make him the best option.
Dhawan v Shaw v Rahane
Delhi are unlikely to pick Dhawan, Shaw and Rahane in the same team and will have to leave one of them out – which makes the Rahane trade all the more perplexing. With Shaw the most aggressive of the three he is likely to be picked as the Powerplay exploiter which leaves Dhawan competing with Rahane for the anchor spot. Dhawan’s left-handedness and greater pedigree in the format should win him the spot.