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Captaincy test for Rishabh Pant as balanced Delhi Capitals eye maiden title

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Can Delhi Capitals go all the way this season? (2:29)

Gautam Gambhir, Dale Steyn, Ian Bishop and Ajit Agarkar on Delhi's chances this season (2:29)

Where they finished in 2020

Runners-up for the first time in IPL history, losing to eventual champions Mumbai Indians in a one-sided final. How did they get here? By virtue of finishing in the top-two, and utilising a second chance to beat Sunrisers Hyderabad in Qualifier-2.

Potential XI

1 Shikhar Dhawan, 2 Prithvi Shaw, 3 Ajinkya Rahane, 4 Rishabh Pant (capt, wk), 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Shimron Hetmyer/Sam Billings, 7 Axar Patel, 8 R Ashwin, 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Anrich Nortje, 11 Umesh Yadav
PS: Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje will be available for selection from the Capitals' second game onwards, while Axar Patel may also miss out the opener after testing positive for Covid-19. This could mean, Steven Smith, who may otherwise tussle with a few other overseas personnel, could start straightaway.

Batting

Shreyas Iyer's absence due to a shoulder injury leaves a hole in the batting. This puts that much more focus on the top order of Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw and Ajinkya Rahane.

The prospect of being in T20I contention will keep Dhawan hungry. As such, he was their best batsman last season, both in terms of run-aggregate (618) and strike rate (144.73 - among those to have made at least 200 runs). His powerplay strike-rate of 139 was the fifth-best among those who faced at least 50 balls. Shaw, meanwhile, is coming off a chart-topping Vijay Hazare Trophy after being dropped from the Test team in Australia.

Shaw has worked in the interim with batting consultant Pravin Amre, with the focus being solely on being IPL-ready. Having been left out of the team mid-season at IPL 2020, a roaring Shaw, in the kind of form he's in currently, will complement Dhawan. The middle-order seems settled with Rishabh Pant, the new captain, and Marcus Stoinis lending some batting muscle. There could be a toss-up between Shimron Hetmyer and Sam Billings for the finisher's role.

Bowling

Chris Woakes returns after having missed the previous season due to personal reasons. His replacement, Nortje, has since gone on to establish himself as an out-and-out pace option, scuppering oppositions in the death overs alongside his South Africa team-mate Rabada. This means, Woakes may not find it easy to break into the first XI, even though he's an excellent option nonetheless.

In Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav, their new signing, they have two Indian fast bowlers, who could offer a lot of balance to the make-up of their bowling attack and some flexibility in terms of their four overseas players. Axar, coming off an excellent maiden Test season with the Indian team, is in form alongside R Ashwin, who is doing everything he can to be in white-ball contention for India once again.

His seven wickets were the most in the powerplay last season, ahead of Axar and Washington Sundar. He was the joint-fifth best during this phase in the competition. Overall, he picked up 13 wickets in 15 games at an economy of just 7.66.

Young player to watch out for

Rishabh Pant was at an all-time low last season, struggling for any kind of consistency or rhythm to his batting. Because of that, he wasn't even considered for India's white-ball squads for the tour of Australia. But life seems to have come a full circle. He returns much fitter and with the form and confidence of a career-defining last six months - having played key roles in India's back-to-back triumphs over Australia and England. He's also not just returned to the white-ball set-up but has also established himself as a key middle-order cog for the T20 World Cup. No wonder then he's been handed the Delhi Capitals captaincy. How will that added responsibility sit on him? It'll make for compelling viewing.

Coaching staff

Ricky Ponting,(head coach), Mohammad Kaif and Ajay Ratra(assistant coaches), Pravin Amre (batting consultant), James Hopes (bowling coach)