Franchise’s former captain Shreyas Iyer opts to head to the player auction
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.
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.
The Capitals will thus enter the auction with INR 48 crore.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo