Does Steve Smith make the Delhi Capitals Playing XI with all international players available for selection in IPL 2021?
Delhi Capitals will take on Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in their opening Indian Premier League 2021 (IPL 2021) encounter at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Saturday. With skipper Rishabh Pant having top-notch international players at his disposal for four overseas spots, there is one big question everyone is asking: Does Smith make it to DC's playing XI?
Pant, who was named skipper for this season following Shreyas Iyer being ruled out due to a shoulder injury, has other big names like South African pace duo Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje, Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, West Indies all-rounder Shimron Hetmyer and English players in Tom Curran, Sam Billings and Chris Woakes.
Smith had a lukewarm IPL 2020 in the UAE. Turning up for his former franchise Rajasthan Royals, he scored 311 runs in 14 matches. At the IPL 2021 mini-auction, he was picked for a meagre price of ₹2.2 crore. For the first couple of games, he is likely to get picked as some big names will be unavailable for selection and if he does get included in the playing XI, he is likely to bat at number 3.
For the first game, Rabada and Nortje will be unavailable due to protocols. The duo arrived only a few days back and are still in their mandatory one-week quarantine. If all goes well, they will be available for selection from the second game onwards.
However, once they are eligible play, they will be the heading the bowling attack. Rabada won the Purple Cap last season with 30 wickets, while Nortje finished fourth in the list with 22 wickets.
Aussie all-rounder is also expected to be a regular member of team considering his exploits last season. He scored 352 runs, at a strike-rate of 148.52, in 17 matches and pocketed 13 wickets. He also smashed three fifties for the Delhi side that finished runners-up.
-Who takes up the last spot-?
Coming to other overseas, players, there could be a toss-up between big-hitting Shimron Hetmyer and Smith. During a chat on an ESPNCricinfo program, former West Indies cricketer Ian Bishop said he would like to see Hetmyer get a run of games to prove his mettle and also bat consistently at three. The big-hitting Guyana southpaw blew hot-and-cold last season, scoring a lowly 185 runs in 12 matches.
There is an Englishman who makes a strong case for himself. Chris Woakes, who is more of a bowling all-rounder, could prove to Delhi's breakthrough foreign star this year. Even though he hasn't played an IPL game since 2018, he has plenty of T20 experience in the bank. In 111 matches, he's scored 803 runs and bagged 121 wickets.
DC head coach Ricky Ponting and Rishabh Pant will have a tough task of getting the combination right. They are not playing in Delhi, which a slow, spin-friendly, wicket and they start their campaign at the high-scoring Wankhede. Hence, logic says big hitters should be preferred. It will be interesting to see who they actually pick.