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Cricket news - Rechristened Delhi Capitals' time to turn a corner

Pant and Iyer will again form the core of Delhi Capitals' batting order.

There's an imaginary ticker clicking away as Delhi Capitals look over their shoulders. Rechristened only recently as part of a partial change in ownership, the Delhi franchise has existed as long as the league has, but possess nothing to show for it in their trophy cabinet. As many as six franchises have tasted success - some even on multiple occasions - but Delhi remain one of only three franchises to not get their hands around the IPL trophy.

Delhi's flying start in the history of the tournament is such a distant memory now. Their semifinal appearances in 2008 and 2009, and a qualification to the playoffs in 2012 pale in comparison to the rut that has continued. Delhi have tried nearly every trick in the book - including a massive overhaul and an INR 16 crore winning bid for Yuvraj Singh - but none have managed to turn the course of a steeply dipping downward curve.

GMR group's decision to look for a partner to share the ownership was an indication that they no longer saw it as a completely viable business option, but there's still some light at the end of the metaphorical tunnel for the franchise.

JSW Steel's Parth Jindal - who now shares half the ownership with GMR group - comes in with the reputation of having set new standards in the club ownership structure in Indian football since taking over Bengaluru FC. And the effective ownership reflected in the heights that the club achieved in the years since.

You can't mistake even their staunchest supporters to bring along a hint of skepticism going into the season, but the flame, perhaps, still flickers on for Dehli. A new team name will always be likened to a new identity - even if you're only taking off a single letter like the now-defunct Rising Pune Supergiant - but it also presents an opportunity to start afresh and successfully turn a corner.

Possible starting XI: Shikhar Dhawan, Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer, Colin Ingram, Rishabh Pant (wk), Chris Morris, Axar Patel, Sandeep Lamichhane/Kagiso Rabada, Rahul Tewatia/Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Trent Boult

Others in the squad: Ankush Bains, Hanuma Vihari, Colin Munro, Jalaj Saxena, Keemo Paul, Sherfane Rutherford, Harshal Patel, Manjot Kalra, Jayant Yadav, Bandaru Ayappa, Nathu Singh, Avesh Khan

Strength: Indian core and a T20 leagues-bred Sandeep Lamichhane

Last year, Delhi Daredevils failed with an attempt to sell the 'return of the prodigal son' narrative convincingly as Gautam Gambhir could last only till mid-season, when he had to hand over captaincy and even relinquish his spot in the side owing to patchy form. But Delhi have dipped their feet into similar, choppy waters yet again. Shikhar Dhawan returns at the cost of Delhi losing three of their players to Sunrisers Hyderabad (Abhishek Sharma, Vijay Shankar and Shahbaz Nadeem), but brings with him an IPL CV that boasts of nearly 500 runs in each of the last three seasons (497, 479 and 501 in 2018, 2017 and 2016).

The overall strike-rate - 123.53 - is a bit of stickler, but Dhawan's experience in the format and in a batting core consisting Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer and Rishabh Pant will be valuable. Capitals boast of an all-Indian engine room of Shaw, Iyer and Pant - giving the franchise the luxury of being flexible with their overseas picks. Shaw's form coming into the tournament is ordinary, but the recently-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament was his first time back in action since the ankle injury that kept him out of Australia Tests.

Since playing in his maiden IPL last season, Sandeep Lamichhane has travelled the world, playing franchise cricket and acing it to an extent. The Nepal leggie impressed particularly in the Big Bash League this year and could be thrust into the first-choice playing XI to bring in the intangible - and much-talked about - X-factor a la Rashid Khan at SRH and Mujeeb Ur Rahman at KXIP. If the move clicks, he'd be able to share the spinners' load with the likes of Amit Mishra - who may not be the ice-cool wicket-chugging IPL version of himself anymore - and Axar Patel, who also could prove to be a very shrewd pick for the Capitals.

Weakness: Indian fast bowling options

Mohammed Shami's IPL 2018 was clouded with controversy in his personal life, and eventually restricted him to just four fixtures after the then Delhi Daredevils had used an RTM (Right-to-match) option in the auction last year. This year, Capitals came after Jaydev Unadkat to fill the Shami void after releasing him - going as far as INR 4.60 Crore, but fell way short. They literally latched onto the next name on list - paying just INR 1.10 Crore for the services of Ishant Sharma. The problem though is that Ishant has played a total of 17 IPL games since the start of 2014 season, picking up seven wickets at an economy rate of over 9 in each of these seasons - with of 11.35 in 2015. Capitals will hope his leader-of-the-pack instincts in the longest format will kick in when he plays in the tournament for the first time since 2017.

Delhi Capitals have Avesh Khan, Nathu Singh Harshal Patel and Bandaru Ayyappa as fast-bowling options, but their inexperience means the franchise may best use them as a second-pacer option, if needed. You could even excuse the team management's reluctance to take a punt after having finished as the worst bowling side in IPL 2018.

If neither these options nor Ishant work out, Capitals might be pushed to alter their combinations - leading to a compromise in some aspect of their team balance - to fit in both Trent Boult and Kagiso Rabada in the process.

Opportunity: The other Colin

The South African-turned-Glamorgan heartthrob will get a second stab at the IPL - after his barely-noticed time also with the Delhi franchise in 2011. Ingram returns to the national capital eight years wiser, and with the reputation of an indispensable white-ball asset for Glamorgan. He also brings a six-hitting appetite and a high T20 strike rate (140.53) that Delhi Capitals could do with from a potential No. 4 batsman. Formwise too, Capitals can be glad to have staved off competition from Sunrisers Hyderabad for their INR 6.40 crore acquisition.

With Dhawan's return, Capitals can afford to drop Colin Munro to the bench, and bring in Ingram instead to bat at any position across No. 3, 4 or 5.

Threat: Inexperience and big-match pressure

There has been a hint of 'building for the future' to Delhi Capitals' auction strategy, but that also brings on board a lot of inexperience. Capitals have perhaps locked in their core for years to come, but for a franchise seeking immediate success to inaugurate their barren trophy cabinet, the inexperience within the squad could claw them back.

Since making the playoffs in 2012 (after finishing third in the league stage), Delhi's league standings have been: 9th, 8th, 7th, 6th, 6th and 8th. Should they improve in 2019 and stay in contention for a top-four spots, the final jostle might be too overbearing for a squad that hasn't been in clutch situations for too long now. Inversely, this could be the coming-of-age of so many of their squad members, if they choose to shoulder the burden of expectations and intense pressure that comes with being a contender in the IPL.

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