DC have a world-class bowling attack, a rock-solid Indian core and an exciting new skipper in young Rishabh Pant. With the experienced Ricky Ponting at the helm of affairs as DC coach and a brilliant run to their maiden IPL final last year fresh in memory, Pant's men could be the team to beat in the 2021 edition of the tournament.
The top order was a bit of a concern for DC in IPL 2020 as their openers struggled with consistency and explosiveness, but the fortunes of a few players involved have changed considerably since then. Here, we name three possible opening combinations for DC in IPL 2021.
#3 Marcus Stoinis and Shikhar Dhawan
This might be a left-field choice as DC need the explosiveness of Marcus Stoinis in the middle order, but the burly right-hander could be perfect in an opening role.
DC struggled with finding momentum in the powerplay last year. And after both Prithvi Shaw and Ajinkya Rahane disappointed, they fielded Stoinis at the top of the order for the final two games of the season. He impressed and flopped in equal measure, but there was enough promise there to warrant the thought of him opening.
Stoinis piled on the runs as an opener in the Big Bash League. And since he doesn't need much time to get his eye in, he could perfectly complement Shikhar Dhawan. DC are unlikely to go down this route early in the season, but they could resort to this in case things don't go their way.
#2 Ajinkya Rahane and Shikhar Dhawan
Another player who got a few games as an opener in IPL 2020, Ajinkya Rahane is wasted in the middle order of any T20 team. He isn't as natural a stroke-maker as the other members of the DC batting lineup, and field restrictions really bring the best out of him as an attacking batsman.
Rahane is expected to be Shreyas Iyer's replacement in the DC playing XI, and using him at No. 3 or No. 4 like the former captain would be a waste. Moreover, the Indian Test vice-captain has experienced a lot of success as an opener in the IPL for the Rajasthan Royals, and is more than capable of taking up the role.
Rahane would be a lock for the opening spot if not for the rip-roaring form of the #1 choice on this list.
#1 Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan
The last IPL didn't go to plan for Prithvi Shaw. Despite a good start to the campaign, the young opener's technical shortcomings were woefully exposed by opposition pacers. He lost his place midway through the tournament, and couldn't make the slightest impact when he did return to the team, only to be dropped again.
But Shaw is a completely different player now. With over 850 runs in 8 games in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the 21-year-old led Mumbai to the title. He seems to be a far more mature cricketer who has sincerely attempted to address the holes in his game, and we could see him push himself back into national contention with a solid IPL.
Shaw seems to be the best possible choice to partner Dhawan at the top of the order for DC in IPL 2021.