IPL preview - Delhi Capitals
Delhi have so often been the nearly men in recent IPL seasons and had the third highest win percentage on any team during the last IPL auction cycle. Having finished 1st & 2nd during the group stages in the last two seasons, Delhi will be bitterly disappointed that they couldn’t win the maiden IPL title they’re desperately chasing.
Despite the disappointment of falling just short in both of the last two seasons, their overall performances have to be seen as a positive. In the years prior to the last three seasons, Delhi went six seasons in a row without making the play offs and in a sport as volatile as t20’s, that’s a dreadful effort in all honesty.
We’d assume that a lot of the credit for their turnaround in fortunes would have to go to Ricky Ponting, who joined the franchise as head coach ahead of the 2018 season. After a difficult season in 2018, where they finished bottom, Ponting has been at the forefront of the increased success. Of course, this year, like it will for every other team, will present a different challenge as it’s almost a complete reset. A scenario which will test the squad-building ability of this current DC think tank.
Former captain in the previous cycle - Shreyas Iyer, has left the franchise, after he wasn’t retained or re-purchased at the auction. This always felt like the likely outcome when we found out that Rishabh Pant was keeping the captaincy midway through last season, after taking over initially when Shreyas Iyer was injured. A fairly big name to lose, though his output isn’t irreplaceable by any means.
Retained players: Rishabh Pant, Axar Patel, Prithvi Shaw & Anrich Nortje.
Of the retained players I guess none of them were really massive shocks, perhaps the only surprise was that Axar Patel was retained as the second-most expensive player. That’s not to say he isn’t a good t20 player, he’s one of the best left-arm orthodox spinners in t20 cricket, however, I’m not sure it’s a skillset that warrants such a high price, unless you’ve got the ability to play as a genuine batter and I don’t think Axar has that. It’s not the end of the world though. Nortje being retained over Rabada might surprise a few more casual cricket fans, the feeling wouldn’t be the same for anyone who has watched the IPL over the last couple of seasons, as Nortje had begun to emerge as the lead pacer for this DC side. In truth, Rabada’s t20 performances have dropped off of late and a change of scenery might do him some good - he moved to Punjab Kings for 9.25cr.
- David Warner - Will miss the first 2 games as cricket Australia aren’t even allowing players that aren’t involved in the white ball series against Pakistan to participate in the IPL until that Australia white ball games have concluded. He has also talked about wanting to attend Shane Warne’s state funeral on March 30th, I’m unsure if that would further impact his availability.
- Mitchell Marsh - Marsh is actually in the squad for the white ball series, so will travel to India on April 5th/6th, before completing three days quarantine. He will miss at least three games, possibly four, with Delhi’s fourth game taking place on the 10th April.
- Anrich Nortje - Has been under an injury cloud in recent months and there were rumours he might not even make it to the tournament. The good news for DC fans is that he has arrived in India, though he hasn’t played a game since the t20 WC ended in November. It’s rumoured that DC are hoping he’ll be fit for their game on April 7th, meaning that he’d only miss two matches.
- Lungi Ngidi & Mustafizur Rahman - Likely to be out of quarantine on the day of their first game so probably won’t be available for that.
Delhi are facing somewhat of an overseas availability crisis for the initial matches of the tournament and this will only be compounded if Nortje isn’t fully fit at the start. They really don’t have a replacement for him at all, he’s the only player they’ve got that’s capable of consistently reaching high speeds. The crisis isn’t exactly helped by the fact they only signed seven overseas players in the first place (you’re allowed up to 8) and they were one of a few teams to do this and I can’t understand the reasoning behind it.
In all honesty last season was probably a golden chance for Delhi to win their first title, with a strong Mumbai team, not firing on all cylinders, I don’t know if a better opportunity will come about in the near future. The reason I say this was because they had one of the stronger bowling attacks you’re ever likely to see. It was already good with the spin duo of Axar & Ashwin and the overseas pace duo of Rabada & Nortje but last season had the added bonus of the emergence of Avesh Khan. Combined with a good opening partnership and players like Pant & Stoinis in the middle order, last season certainly feels like an opportunity missed for Delhi.
Have they managed to improve the squad between seasons?
In short, I think we can answer this fairly comfortably with a resounding no. They lost quite a few big names from last season’s squad, notably; Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer, Marcus Stoinis, Ravichandran Ashwin, KG Rabada and Avesh Khan. All six of these were guaranteed starters for DC last season and I’m not sure any other team has had a bigger turnover in terms of starting XI players. With the replacements they’ve bought in for these payers, I’m not convinced many would be an upgrade on what they had previously. To be clear, this isn’t a criticism of the Delhi management, it was always going to be a difficult task for any team to improve their squad from last season to this one (unless they were rubbish) due to the expansion to a ten team tournament.
This isn’t an easy task given all the availability issues they’ve got, it’s entirely possible that Rovman Powell and Tim Seifert will be the only two players available for their season opener against Mumbai. If we look at the players that are guaranteed to be in their XI for the first game, there is probably only five:
Then there are a few more players that are highly like to play. KS Bharat will probably come in to bat at three, Lalit Yadav will be in the 6/7 slot and Khaleel will most likely be first choice pace bowler for the initial games as he is quicker than Sakariya, which will be required with the absence of Nortje.
The final three slots will be contested for by Seifert/Yash Dhull/Ashwin Hebbar in the opening slot, Sarfaraz & Mandeep Singh for the middle order role and Sakariya & Kuldeep for the final bowling position:
Given the players already in the team I think they’ll go with Seifert, Sarfaraz and Sakariya. Seifert perhaps purely to avoid the embarrassment of only playing with one overseas player in the XI, Sarfaraz will likely get the nod on the basis he is ‘in-form’ and Sakariya will play because otherwise they’ll only have two pace bowlers in the XI.
When Mustafizur and Ngidi are available after game one, the options start to increase. As Warner, Nortje & Marsh are all likely to still be unavailable for DC’s second match they would have the option to play both. Possible other partnerships they could take would be Mustafizur - Khaleel, Ngidi - Khaleel & Ngidi - Sakariya. I wouldn't play both Sakariya & Mustafizur in the same XI. As a result of this we could get the slightly unusual situation whereby Sakariya could make their XI for the initial match and when they’re at full strength but not in the games where Ngidi/Fizz are available and Nortje isn’t, owing to the team balance issues Delhi have.
At full strength, they’ve certainly got a decent XI:
There are still a couple of selection debates, the obvious one is that final bowling slot and I’m not even sure on that. It could be any of Khaleel, Nagarkoti or Kuldeep. Indeed, Sakariya isn’t certain to play either, I just liked what I saw of him last season, even if he does lack of a bit of pace. So, those final two domestic bowling slots are up in the air really. For me personally, based on what they currently have in the side; Nortje is a top-tail bowler, Sakariya is slightly more powerplay orientated and Thakur is more of an enforcer (likely a 1–2–1 role). Depending on how Kuldeep is looking, he’d probably be my first choice for this role.
Delhi also have the option to go batting-heavy and bring in either Sarfaraz or KS Bharat at 5/6:
In my opinion, this would likely be a bit unnecessary, their top five at full strength is fairly high-quality as it is, there would be no need to bring another specialist batter in.
Batting at full strength - A potential top five of Shaw, Warner, Marsh, Pant & Rovman is a mouth-watering prospect, not just because of the quality each of them possesses either. They seem to have a great mixture of player profiles, which should help to raise the performance levels even further. Firstly, they’ve got a LH/RH opening partnership, including one player who will go after any type of bowling (Shaw) and a more stability-orientated player (Warner) who is one of the best players of spin around. Then at 3 they’ve got Marsh who is a brilliant player of pace, his spin game seems to be improving due to the development of some of his sweep shots, however, it’s still the weaker part of his game, though that weakness will be fairly well-hidden as a result of having Warner & Pant either side of him. Pant & Rovman at 4 & 5 will take care of the pace hitting as well and 6–8 can be flexible depending on the situation. It looks like well-constructed batting line up when everyone is available.
Slightly better batting depth - Batting depth has been a big issue for DC in recent seasons, often having Axar Patel at 7, sometimes even at 6. This year things look a bit better with Thakur coming into the squad and they’ve also got the option to go with a batting-heavy line up, which would further increase the batting depth if they wanted to.
Spin options - With Axar Patel, Lalit Yadav and Kuldeep Yadav, Delhi have three spinners that all offer a different variety and there’s a chance they could all play in the same XI, without sacrificing their pace bowling attack. They might only go with two spinners initially but if pitches deteriorate this will be a nice option to have.
Local talent - Delhi look to have better bench strength than most teams amongst their local players this season. With at the likes of Sarfaraz, Mandeep Singh, KS Bharat, Nagarkoti & Ripal Patel likely to spend large parts of the season on the bench. In addition to this the ages of the local players they’ve signed, indicate that Delhi weren’t just focused on this season when buying their squad. Of the 17 domestic players they purchased/retained, none of them are over the age of 30 and nine are aged 25 or under. Building for the future?
Overseas availability at the start - This is an obvious one but potentially only having two overseas players available for the first game is a disaster of a situation. With one of those being Tim Seifert, that won’t offer much hope for Delhi fans either.
No direct replacement for Nortje - It’s never going to be easy to find a direct replacement for someone that can bowl 150+ but Delhi haven’t really gotten close. Nortje’ fitness levels are certainly doubtful coming into this season and it’s highly unlikely he’ll play more than 70–75% of their matches so the lack of backup for him would be a big concern for me. The only other bowler they’ve got in their squad that’s capable of reaching speeds of 140+ semi-regularly is Kamlesh Nagarkoti and he is also very injury-prone.
Bowling drop off - In comparison to the bowling attack they had last year, this year’s one looks so much worse. They’ve essentially lost 12 overs from Rabada, Ashwin and Avesh Khan and likely replaced them with Thakur, Sakariya/Khaleel and Lalit/Kuldeep and that’s a fairly big downgrade in my opinion.
David Warner - Recovered from a relative slump with a good run of games at the t20 WC, which led to him receiving the player of the tournament award. I’m still not fully convinced he is anywhere close to the level of player he once was but the quality of his game against spin, in addition to the type of players around him should help hide his weaknesses and ensure he can have a decent enough tournament. His strike rate of 115 against 130+ pace over a 450 ball sample size is very underwhelming though.
Prithvi Shaw - Perhaps it’s fitness holding him back but I’m not quite sure why he hasn’t had more white ball chances for India? Another good tournament here would make him almost impossible to ignore. Shaw is one of the best powerplay exploiters in India, which adds value in either of the white ball formats:
As you can see from the above, Shaw was basically in a league of his own last season in powerplays. His strike rate was 25 runs per 100 balls better than any other player that met the required sample size when it came to balls faced. The impact this has on a side can’t be understated, a strike rate difference of 25 is basically 1.5 runs per over quicker than anyone else and the difference that will make to a side is huge when you think about it. In addition to this, he also scored the most runs in powerplays last season, his tally of 353 was 55 more than the next best (Faf). To get the best out of Warner, Delhi needed an extremely proactive partner at the other end and with Shaw, they might have the best of the lot. Of course, given the nature of his role, he isn’t the most consistent; in his IPL career so far he has two seasons striking at 150+ and in his other two he has been in the mid 130’s, with fairly low averages. In my opinion, it’s a trade off you have to be willing to accept because when he is on song, he is better at his job than any other domestic player.
Mitch Marsh - His exploits against pace are well known, not only is he fast scoring (SR of almost 150), he is also one of the most reliable players against it, with an average of just below 50. The encouraging news for DC will be the slight improvement he has shown against spin, which gives him a better chance of succeeding at IPL level:
It’s a much bigger sample size in 2021 & 22 so far, so it’s possible we’re just getting a truer reflection of his ability against spin but I think there’s a clear improvement that can be seen here. That isn’t to say he is a great player of spin, nevertheless, he has made it less of a weakness and that’s all you can ask for. His improvement against spin has made him a more reliable starter, across the t20I’s/BBL games he has played since the end of BBL 20/21, he has averaged over 60 in the first 10 balls of his innings.
Rishabh Pant - What has happened here? A first poor season could be considered an anomaly, a second poor season is slightly concerning, if Rishabh has another below-par season this year I’d be extremely worried. To be fair to him, in the context of last season, a 420 run season at a strike rate of just below 130 isn’t that bad but it’s just not what we’re used to seeing from him. After seeing three seasons in a row of Rishabh striking at above 160 (from 2017–19) when he was between the ages of 19–21, it felt like the sky was the limit. Hopefully, this drop off is just a bump in the road. Perhaps the most disappointing thing with his most recent seasons is the hit his game against spin has taken:
The drop off in numbers is unfathomably big and can’t simply be put down to just the differing conditions of the last two IPL seasons. Your boundary percentage doesn't drop by more than 50% if that’s the case, he is clearly taking less risks against spin. Whether that’s some sort of captains responsibility that the DC coaching staff believe in or another reason, whatever it is, it needs to stop, what we’re seeing currently is a criminal waste of resources:
There is no scenario in which Rishabh Pant should be the fourth-slowest scoring player against spin over the course of two seasons. Anyone that has seen some of his destructive knocks in other formats for India can clearly see he is still an excellent player of spin and he has to re-discover that touch at IPL level this season.
Rovman Powell - I don’t think many players timed a run of performances better than Rovman did this year. A typically decent t10 season, followed by some excellent knocks for West Indies in t20’s against England & India meant he was all but certain to be picked this season. Rovman has always been one of the cleanest ball strikers around, which he has almost always demonstrated in t10’s, for whatever reason he hasn’t been able to consistently translate those performances to the t20 format. Hopefully, the start he has had in 2022 is a sign of things to come. In total, he scored 242 runs in six matches against England/India, at an average of 60, with a strike rate of almost 190, including 21 sixes. Visually he also looked far more comfortable against spin than he has in the past (stats-wise 83 runs from 54 balls, with two dismissals), it’ll be interesting to see if he can maintain that improved scoring rate against spin in the IPL.
Lalit Yadav - Domestic bully in recent seasons. Played five IPL games last season for Delhi, didn’t have the most successful time, scoring 68 runs in five innings at a strike of below 100, although, four wickets with an economy of 7.2, was a decent effort with the ball. Hopefully, this time around he gets the full season to show what he can do, in terms of all-round ability he probably has the highest ceiling of players in domestic cricket that haven’t yet become IPL regulars:
As you can see from the above, Lalit Yadav was closest to the ideal bottom-right corner, along with likes of Harshal Patel, Nitish Rana and Rahul Tewatia, who are all IPL regulars. Even a simple graph like this, suggests that Lalit Yadav deserves a long run of games to see if he can crack it at IPL level.
Shardul Thakur - A big money purchase for Delhi at 10.75cr and he looks fairly important for their team balance. Batting depth was an issue for them last season, so having an additional option to Axar Patel as a lower-order hitter was necessary. He hasn’t actually batted that much in his t20 career, but has shown he is a decent ball striker in other formats for India. Took 21 wickets, with an economy of 8.8 last season, his highest wicket-taking season by a distance and slightly better than his average IPL economy. Expect him to mainly be used as an ‘enforcer’ in 1–2–1 role, he can be expensive but I guess it’s a worthwhile trade off if he can take regular wickets through the middle. Just shy of 11cr is too much though.
Axar Patel - Since moving to Delhi a few seasons ago he has done very well, an economy of 6.74 and concedes a boundary with less than 11% of his deliveries - one of the best defensive spinners. Whoever has been captaining DC in that time has also used him brilliantly, over the course of the last three IPL seasons, almost 78% of his deliveries have been to RHB’s. This is important because he goes at almost 2rpo less against RHB’s than he does against LHB’s. His strike rate is actually better against LHB’s, though it’s quite a small sample size, so it isn’t something I’d pay massive attention to. Limited with the bat, might be sent up the order as a middle order pinch hitter on occasion, if not, I expect him to bat below Thakur in the order.
Anrich Nortje - Bowls genuine rockets - average speed of just over 142kmph in his IPL career, (if you remove slower balls that jumps to just shy of 145) and 76% of his deliveries are bowled at over 140kmph. He is one of, if not the fastest bowlers in the competitions. Delhi really can’t afford for him to miss many games as they don’t have a direct replacement for him at all. More importantly, he has ability/skill to go with that pace. His 2021 was seriously impressive, across last seasons IPL/T20 WC, Nortje took 21 wickets at an economy of under 6po, which makes it seem crazy that he didn't play any games in the India leg of the tournament last season. In 2021 he also only conceded boundaries with 11.2% of his deliveries, I’m not sure many pace bowlers will have had better calendar years in terms of this stat. Hopefully, his injury hasn’t impact the rhythm he had before that.
Chetan Sakariya - Many are predicting Khaleel to be ahead of Sakariya in the pecking order but I’m sticking to Sakariya. He had a decent debut IPL season, where he almost had to be the attack leader for Rajasthan, in the absence of any big-name fast bowlers. Showed good control in powerplays (economy of 7rpo) and was okay at the death. Not the fastest by any means, in fact he’s fairly slow for a ‘pace’ bowler, his ceiling in terms of pace seems to be the low 130’s. The angles he creates & variations he bowls make him a viable option, he is much better against RHB’s. Wouldn’t play him and Mustafizur in the same team.
Kuldeep Yadav - His stats in recent years have been really bad for a spin bowler, he has been expensive - going at well over 8rpo and hasn’t been carrying a wicket taking threat either (SR 30). For him to have any chance of getting close his best, he’ll need a run of games and he hasn’t had that in the last two IPL seasons, having only played four matches. It looks like there will be more chances for him at DC, however, I’m not convinced he’ll be fully backed if he has a couple of bad games. Slow through the air, with an average speed of 82kmph, which is thought to be one of the main reasons for his downfall in white ball cricket of late.
Mustafizur Rahman - He made his comeback to IPL last season for Rajasthan, after not playing in the two seasons prior to that. He finished with 14 wickets (Sr 22) with an economy of 8.36, not awful but not great either. His death over economy rate, which his main selling point really, was slightly disappointing - going at almost 10.5 rpo and of the players that bowled at least ten overs in that phase last season, only three were more expensive.
Lungi Ngidi - At base price, I’m okay with this signing. His numbers over the last couple of years are bad, however, he has still maintained that new ball threat and because of that, I don’t mind a team picking him up as backup pacer.
Tim Seifert - This is a very meh signing in my opinion. Seifert’s numbers since 2020 make for grim reading. In 64 innings, he has managed 1442 runs at an average of 27 and strike rate of 120. It’s important to note that this includes a couple of CPL seasons (low scoring comp in recent years) but it also includes 2.5 supersmash seasons and quite a few home t20I’s. There isn’t much to suggest he’d be a successful player at IPL level. I’d probably rather give someone like Yash Dhull a chance.
KS Bharat - Played a few games for RCB last season. To be honest I thought his performances were a little overrated. He looked like a good player of spin but vulnerable against high pace and was generally quite a slow starter (first 10 balls SR of 100). To be fair to him, a player capable of attacking spin might be all Delhi need in the initial games, which is when he is most likely to play.
Sarfaraz Khan - Showed some extremely promising signs in his early IPL days but hasn’t really re-discovered that level since, he is still only 24 so he certainly has time to reach his potential and at 20L, he has to be considered a bit of a bargain but I don’t think he’d make my XI when DC are at full strength. For what it’s worth he has been run machine in first class cricket, which is probably why his name is appearing in quite a lot of the predicted XI’s.
Mandeep Singh - Hasn’t really made an impact in the last three IPL seasons, only scoring 310 runs in 20 innings at a strike rate of below 130. Domestic numbers have remained impressive in that time frame though; averaging over 50 and striking in the mid 140’s across the last three SMA seasons. Likely in direct competition with Sarfaraz for a place in the side for the initial matches.
Khaleel Ahmed - I’m not to sure what his role is in t20’s, he has fairly average numbers in both of the crucial phases and seems to be bowling slightly more throughout the middle overs during the last couple of IPL seasons. This isn’t really a skill DC require, with Thakur already in the team. I don’t think Khaleel is as quick as some people think either - average pace in the low 130’s & only reaches 140kmph with 14% of his deliveries. It’ll be interesting to see whether Sakariya or Khaleel gets the nod for DC.
Kamlesh Nagarkoti - There’s no doubting his potential but he just hasn’t been able to stay fit in recent years. This led to him falling behind Shivam Mavi in the pecking order at KKR. I’m not 100% sure if he is even fully fit at the moment.
Player stats sheet:
While they do have a good team at full strength, it’s difficult to argue that they’re a stronger side than they were last season. As I mentioned earlier, the bowling has seen a big drop off in the quality and the batting, might be slightly better but it’s only a marginal improvement in my opinion. Replacing Dhawan & Stoinis, with Warner & Powell are two pairings of a similar level. The potential upside of Mitch Marsh, given the player profiles around him, could make him an upgrade over Shreyas but you can never be fully convinced he’ll translate that to the IPL, Shreyas would give more comfort in that sense. Batting depth has improved slightly but not by a big-enough margin to cover the decrease in bowling ability.
Given what I said above, it makes me think DC would have to be extremely fortunate to get close to challenging for the title this season. With the domestic players they’ve signed they look well-placed to challenge in future seasons but for them to compete this season their key players would need to really dominate. My prediction for DC is that they’ll finish mid-table (5/6th)5, achieving anything better than that would have to be considered a success this season in my opinion, especially considering their overseas availability issues at the start.
Thanks for reading!