Axar Patel's forced withdrawal from the initial part of the Delhi Capitals' campaign, due to his COVID-19 infection - is certainly not good news for last year's runners-up. The all-rounder's 117 runs at a strike rate of 137.64, combined with his 9 wickets at an economy rate of 6.41 runs per over, were key to Delhi's unprecedented success last season.
Fortunately, Axar is likely to test negative soon, and hopefully be fit for most of the season.
Delhi Capitals begin their campaign by playing three back-to-back matches in Mumbai, followed by two in Chennai, four in Ahmedabad and five in Kolkata. Hyderabad and Indore have been kept on standby in case matches need to be shifted from Mumbai amid rising coronavirus cases.
In either case, the wickets are expected to be flat and slow, which is the general nature of Indian pitches. While Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium and Kolkata's Eden Gardens have aided seamers relatively well in comparison with other IPL venues, the importance of spinners on Indian pitches can never be ruled out.
Spin might be Delhi Capitals' strong area this season
The possibility of seeing Amit Mishra and Ravichandran Ashwin take to the field together in the upcoming season is quite high. The Delhi Capitals went with at least two spinners in all their matches last season. They even played three (Praveen Dubey being the third) in the tournament final.
Amit Mishra could only play three matches and had to return to India in the first half of the tournament itself, after suffering a hand injury. The veteran leg-spinner took three wickets in the three matches he played, and was quite economical as well.
The duo of Ashwin and Patel picked up 22 wickets together last season. With the team lacking all-rounders in the form of spinners, the desire to play Amit Mishra and Ravichandran Ashwin together is further justified.
While Amit Mishra is not as much of a batsman as Axar Patel, the former's track record makes it easy for him to walk into any playing eleven. With 160 wickets in the tournament, Amit Mishra is the second-highest wicket-taker in IPL history - just 10 wickets behind Lasith Malinga.
Amit Mishra and Ravichandran Ashwin played just one match together last season - against the Kolkata Knight Riders. Ashwin was expected to bat at number seven, in place of the then-injured Axar Patel. However, his batting services were not required and Delhi won the match by 18 runs.
With Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje expected to play the first match, Delhi will need to figure out their fifth bowling option. Marcus Stoinis will take the all-rounder's position, and with Steve Smith playing as well, the team's overseas quota could get filled.
In that case, Ishant Sharma or Umesh Yadav could be the fifth full-time bowling option for Delhi. However, if the team opts for Shimron Hetmyer or Chris Woakes (or both), the other overseas players will need to be shuffled. Regardless, the combination of Ashwin and Mishra should figure in Delhi's opening match against Chennai Super Kings this coming Saturday.