The Delhi Capitals (DC) are on the back of their best-ever Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign. Shreyas Iyer's side reached their maiden final last year, and for the first time in recent memory, they are one of the firm favourites entering the tournament.
DC's buys in the IPL 2021 auction were smart. They needed an experienced Indian pacer to partner the South African duo of Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, and snapped up former player Umesh Yadav at his base price. Steve Smith was another steal at INR 2.2 crores, while Englishmen Tom Curran and Sam Billings also made their way to the franchise.
Baroda captain Lukman Meriwala and Tamil Nadu left-arm spinner M Siddharth completed the DC roster spots for IPL 2021.
DC's predicted playing XI for IPL 2021
This year's IPL is still months away, but we attempt to predict what DC's ideal playing XI will look like.
DC's squad for IPL 2021: Shreyas Iyer, Ajinkya Rahane, Amit Mishra, Avesh Khan, Axar Patel, Ishant Sharma, Kagiso Rabada, Prithvi Shaw, R Ashwin, Rishabh Pant, Shikhar Dhawan, Shimron Hetmyer, Marcus Stoinis, Lalit Yadav, Anrich Nortje, Pravin Dubey, Chris Woakes, Steve Smith, Tom Curran, Sam Billings, Umesh Yadav, Lukman Meriwala, M Siddharth
Openers: Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw
DC's leading run-getter with 618 runs at an average of 44.14 and a strike rate of 144.73 in IPL 2020, Shikhar Dhawan will once again stride out to open the batting for the team this year. The southpaw will look to avoid the brief dry spells he went through last season, but he'll be more than happy if can tally a similar amount of runs.
It gets tricky when we try to pick DC's other opener. Ajinkya Rahane offers a circumspect option at the top of the order and he might not gel well with Dhawan, who also takes his time to get going.
Marcus Stoinis opened the innings in a couple of games in IPL 2020, but when he did, Rahane had to play at No. 3. This not only reduced the number of balls captain Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant got to play, but also left the DC innings without momentum at the death.
Opening with Rahane or Stoinis didn't work for DC in IPL 2020 apart from the odd game. They either struggled to score in the powerplay or at the death, and left the middle order with too much to do.
New acquisition Steve Smith opened the innings for Rajasthan Royals, but there's probably no room for another semi-aggressive batsman in the DC playing XI, especially with a match-winner in Shimron Hetmyer taking up an overseas slot.
As a result, despite history and common sense suggesting otherwise, Prithvi Shaw is DC's best bet. The youngster was a walking wicket in IPL 2020, and faded away miserably after a bright start. DC will desperately need him to find a way out of his slump, and get the team off to good starts.
Interestingly, Shaw showed signs of returning to form a couple of days ago, smashing an unbeaten 105 to lead Mumbai to a win over Delhi in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.