Delhi Capitals have decided to retain the quartet of Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Axar Patel and Anrich Nortje for IPL 2022. However, Capitals’ former captain Shreyas Iyer, who made his Test debut on Thursday, has decided to head to the player auction instead.
While Capitals could see Iyer’s exit as a setback, they wouldn’t have been entirely surprised by the batter’s decision. Ever since the Capitals handed the captaincy to Pant ahead of IPL 2021, after Iyer was ruled out of the first leg due to shoulder surgery in April, the franchise faced the question of whether they could retain Iyer.
Iyer had taken over from Gautam Gambhir as the side’s captain midway through IPL 2018. In the next season, Iyer led the Delhi franchise to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. In IPL 2019, they made their first final, but eventually lost to Mumbai Indians.
Earlier this March, during the ODI leg of the home series against England, Iyer dislocated his shoulder in the field and had to undergo surgery, forcing the Capitals to appoint Pant at the time as an interim captain. Although Iyer returned for the second leg of the IPL, played in the UAE in October-November, Pant was retained as the captain.
ESPNcricinfo has learned that although Iyer can still be bought by the two new franchises, he has decided to go to the auction where at least five teams from the eight existing franchises will be on the lookout for a new captain.
It is understood that while Pant was the first name on Capitals’ retention list, Shaw became the second once Iyer ruled himself out. Shaw, who made headlines during India’s 2018 Under-19 World Cup victory, was bought at the auction the same year for INR 1.2 crore. Shaw, who recently turned 22, is one of the most destructive openers across formats. At Capitals, he has acknowledged his growth under the coaching pair of Ricky Ponting and Praveen Amre, so the franchise did not need much to deliberate upon.
In contrast, Nortje and Axar were not straightforward choices. Nortje, who had joined Capitals in 2020, was retained ahead of his South Africa team-mate Kagiso Rabada.
While Nortje has never played the IPL in India, his numbers in the UAE were highly impressive. Twelve of Nortje’s 34 IPL wickets came in the powerplay, the third most by any bowler in that phase since his debut. While Rabada, who joined the Capitals in 2018, had taken 22 of his 45 wickets across the last two IPLs at the death, his economy rate in that phase was 9.44, much higher than Nortje, who went at 7.82, the best for anyone to have bowled a minimum of 100 balls across the two seasons. Those numbers seemed to have convinced the Capitals’ management that Nortje was a better bet than Rabada.
As for Axar, he was in contention with senior India batter Shikhar Dhawan, who joined the Capitals in 2019 after being traded from Sunrisers Hyderabad.
It was a homecoming after 11 years for Dhawan, who had played for Capitals (then Delhi Daredevils) in the inaugural IPL season in 2008. Dhawan did not disappoint: since his return in 2019, only KL Rahul (1889 runs) has scored more than Dhawan’s 1726 runs, which came at a healthy strike rate of 134.63. In 49 innings since 2019, Dhawan has an average of 39.22 and even scored hundreds in successive innings in IPL 2020.
While Dhawan has been Capital’s best batter, Axar’s case became stronger because of his all-round skills, especially his control with the ball. Since his debut for Capitals in 2019, Axar has 34 wickets in 41 games. His economy rate of 6.73 is the best for a Capitals bowler in these three seasons among the players to have bowled at least 50 balls. Axar was also the joint-highest wicket-taker during the recent T20I series against New Zealand where he had an economy rate of only six across the 11 overs, while conceding only one six.
The IPL had set November 30 as the deadline for the eight existing teams to retain players. Existing teams can retain a maximum of four players while the two new teams – based in Lucknow and Ahmedabad – can buy upto three players from the non-retained lot by December 25.
While the salary purse for the auction has been enhanced to 90 crore per team, the IPL has also set different salary slabs to be deducted based on the players retained. If a team retains four players, INR 44 crore get deducted from the purse. If the team retains three players it would lose INR 33 crore from its purse, INR 24 crore for two players and INR 14 crore if it retains just one player. Any uncapped player retained can get a maximum of INR 4 crore. Importantly, the player has the ultimate authority to decide whether he wants to be retained or be part of the auction.
More to follow…