In R Ashwin and Ajnkya Rahane, Delhi Capitals have acquired two heavyweights this IPL season who they may find it hard to keep out of the playing eleven. With a top-heavy batting line-up and several other spin options though playing both may prove a tricky proposition too. Capitals coach Rocky Ponting suggested ahead of Sunday's opening match against Kings XI Punjab at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium that the seasoned duo will have somewhat new roles to play.
Rahane came from Rajasthan Royals, where he was an opener. With Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw proving successful as openers last season, Rahane's chances in that slot are slim. At No. 3, Shreyas Iyer provides stability while at No. 4 Rishabh Pant is a hard-hitting choice, raising questions over Rahane's role in the top-order.
"We think we've got a really balanced squad of players. There is lot of competition for spots this year. Having someone like Rahane has given even more depth to our batting and with the rest of the players in fine fettle, we think we've got lot of flexibility there," Ponting said in a pre-season virtual media conference on Saturday.
"In our top-order batting, Shikhar had as good a last season as anybody (521 runs). Prithvi looks a better player this year and has been training exceptionally well. Shreyas (Iyer) has had his best 12 months for the Indian team. We've Pant, Shimron Hetmyer and Alex Carey (all left-handers), which gives us a good left-right mix. We have our bases covered."
Rahane led RR during 2019 and Ashwin was KXIP skipper. DC also have spinners Amit Mishra, Axar Patel and Nepal's Sandip Lamichhane.
Depth in the spin department is expected to help in the long run on pitches expected to gradually play slower. "Seamers will have an impact in the early stages… it will spin later as the season progresses," Ponting said.
"With only three venues and 24 games in each stadium and only four wickets being used, five or more matches will be played on one pitch. We can expect the conditions to change quite a bit. I saw lot of green grass cover on the track (in Dubai) and before the game some of it will be off. I don't see a lot of spin now but it might become a factor during the later part of the tournament," the Australian World Cup-winning skipper said.
DC skipper Iyer praised the value Ashwin and Rahane add to the side. "They bring a lot of strength and experience, and if you see the practice sessions we have had over the last few days, they have been amazing. They help everyone in the team, especially the younger guys.
"Dubai being a slow wicket is really going to help us in the second half. Ashwin coming from KXIP brings a lot of experience. He is used to bowling on all sorts of pitches. It will be a good target for him to set it up for the team."
DC entered the play-offs last season but the Delhi franchise's quest to enter the final continues. Pant's tally of 488 runs in 16 matches with a strike-rate of 162.66 was a highlight in DC's show. He consistently turned out for India too across formats though there was a dip early this year with the wicket-keeper also suffering a concussion in January.
Ponting backed Pant. "Watching Rishabh train, especially the last week, he has turned the corner. I expect him to have a big impact. In DC, we as a coaching group don't put added pressure on players. We are more than just one player. We like to, as much as possible, take pressure off them. We never expect anything from them which they don't expect from themselves."