Amid a packed international schedule, IPL franchise Delhi Capitals (DC) conducted a five-day camp in Bengaluru in a bid to shore up their middle order and wicketkeeping reserves, Sportskeeda has reliably learnt.
Ever since Rishabh Pant was ruled out of IPL 2023 due to injuries sustained from a horrific car accident last December, DC’s engine room looked threadbare. They used as many as three stumpers throughout the season, along with constantly shuffling batters across the middle order. The unsettled look reflected on the points table as stand-in captain David Warner and Co. finished second from bottom.
With a cloud of uncertainty still hovering over Pant’s return date, the Capitals called up domestic players from all over the country to plug their holes. The camp, headed by assistant coach Pravin Amre, was held from September 10 to 14 at the Just Cricket Academy.
IPL 2024 is slated to be played over two and a half months between March and June, with its mini-auction likely this December or early next year.
Under the tutelage of director of cricket Sourav Ganguly, DC had organised a camp last month as well for its women's team and fringe men's players. Majority of the attendees this time were either lower-middle order batters or wicketkeepers, with several Karnataka players manning the list. Two nets sessions took place, along with one match simulation and one intra-squad game.
“We were told that these performances would matter,” one of the players told Sportskeeda.
Luvnith Sisodia, BR Sharath, KL Shrijith, Shubhang Hegde were among the local boys. All four are deployed in the middle and lower-middle order for Karnataka, with the first three being all keeper-bats. Sharath and Sisodia have been tried out in the opening slot as well.
Interestingly, Sisodia – who was part of DC’s pre-season camp as well – has replaced Sharath in the state T20 team. While the 26-year-old is a part of the red-ball set-up, he last played the Mushtaq Ali in the 2021/22 season.
Shrijith has represented Karnataka in just five T20 matches, with the last of those outings coming in the 2020/21 SMAT. The 27-year-old, however, finished as the fourth-highest run-getter in the recently-concluded Maharaja Trophy, accumulating 393 runs at an average and strike rate of 49.12 and 141.87, respectively.
On the other hand, all-rounder Hegde hasn’t played T20 cricket for his state yet. After being left in the cold for three consecutive seasons, the 22-year-old played three matches in the last Ranji Trophy.
All the aforementioned names – barring Shubhang Hegde – play in the top order for their respective teams in the Maharaja Trophy. Sisodia opens for the Hubli Tigers, with Shrijith coming in at No. 3; Sharath also faces the new ball for the Mangalore Dragons. Hegde batted at No. 5 and 6 for the Bengaluru Blasters, while also opening the bowling with his left-arm orthodox.
Also called up were the two joint-highest wicket-takers of the 2023 Maharaja Trophy. Manvanth Kumar and Abhilash Shetty finished with 22 scalps apiece. While Kumar is a death-overs specialist, Shetty brings a left-arm pace option to the table.
Bengal's Sudip Gharami attends maiden DC trials after solitary day at KKR
The cohort also had four players from East Zone. Bengal’s Abishek Porel, Sudip Kumar Gharami, Ritwik Roy Chowdhury, and Kumar Kushagra from Jharkhand were part of the encampment.
Having recently scored a T20 hundred in a practice game in Pondicherry, Gharami earned his maiden call-up to DC. The rising sensation attended a solitary practice session at KKR before the Knight’s first home game this season. The 24-year-old opens the innings in List A cricket and bats at No. 3 in the other two formats.
Sidelined from first-class cricket, Ritwik plays the finisher’s role for Bengal in the white-ball leg. His unbeaten knock of 36 off 18 balls comes to mind, when he had singlehandedly forced a quarterfinal clash versus Karnataka into a Super Over in the 2021/22 Mushtaq Ali.
Now to the wicketkeepers. While Porel is already a part of the main DC squad, 18-year-old Kushagra presents a strong case for himself. Normally slotted in the lower-middle order, the right-hander has also opened the innings in the shortest format. He lit up the Deodhar Trophy final this year as his 58-ball 68 kept East Zone in the hunt. They eventually lost to South by 45 runs.
Interestingly, it was Porel who had pipped Luvnith Sisodia and Sheldon Jackson to get picked from the pre-season trial.
Delhi Capitals’ middle order merry-go-round
The middle order of the Delhi Capitals resembled students in a classroom put on daily bench rotation. With the openers more or less frozen, the number of players used for subsequent numbers progressively increased.
Across the 14 matches, a total of five players were deployed at No. 3. The count was six for No. 4, seven for No. 5 and eight for No. 6. Manish Pandey, who was bought for ₹2.4 crore, especially to bring in stability to the middle, batted at all four slots. Foreign signings Phil Salt and Rilee Rossouw were assigned as many as three positions.
The bowling department was underwhelming as well. All-rounder Mitchell Marsh, who didn’t even play the entire league stage, was their highest wicket-taker with 12 scalps. The spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Axar Patel had a combined 21 strikes. To put things into perspective, Mohammad Shami won the Purple Cap for claiming 28 wickets.
While a fit-again Rishabh Pant would solve the problem behind the sticks, he’d need more personnel in front.