‘Blessed’ Shreyas Iyer gears up to captain his seniors at Delhi Capitals

Shreyas Iyer believes the upcoming IPL season will be one of his “most important assignments” as captain. He has been at the helm of the Delhi Capitals since 2018, when he took over halfway into the competition, replacing Gautam Gambhir.

“It’s certainly very different from last season, but challenges excite me,” Iyer told IPLT20.com. “As a captain, this is going to be certainly one of my most important assignments just because of how different the setting is. It is going to be very different, the key is to take it one day at a time. We’re being briefed about the do’s and don’ts at every step, it’s crucial that everyone who is part of our team bubble follows that.”

Iyer’s elevation to the role has coincided with a sharp turnaround in fortunes, for both Iyer and the Capitals. Iyer, who missed the World Cup bus, has since gone on to cement his position in India’s limited-overs teams on the back of a strong IPL season in which he made 463 runs in 16 innings, third-highest for the team after Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant.

As for the fortunes of the team, Capitals finished third at the end of the league stage, with nine wins in 14 matches. They beat Sunrisers Hyderabad in a tense Eliminator, before losing against eventual runners-up Chennai Super Kings in Qualifier-2.

Now as he looks forward to leading Capitals again, Iyer has welcomed the addition of two other former IPL captains in R Ashwin and Ajinkya Rahane to the side. Both players were acquired through off-season trades, from Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals respectively.

“Ashwin and Rahane add tremendous depth to our side and give Ricky and me options to be flexible with our playing XI depending on where we’re playing, who our opposition is and where we are placed in the tournament at a particular time,” Iyer explained. “Also these are two individuals who are highly knowledgeable about the game and have captained IPL teams, so for me as captain, this is an opportunity to use all experience and reach out to them whenever I want to share or discuss anything at all.”

Iyer promised “aggressive and passionate” cricket, traits he felt the Capitals have ingrained from Ricky Ponting, their head coach. Iyer felt being empowered by Ponting to take decisions freely has contributed to him being a better cricketer.

“I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to work with someone of his stature, so closely,” Iyer said. “He’s such a legend and makes everyone, from the senior-most to the newest guy feel at home and as a part of this unit. As a captain, he gives me freedom and that has helped me grow as a cricketer.”

Capitals have made two forced changes ahead of the season, bringing in Anrich Nortje and Daniel Sams for Chris Woakes and Jason Roy respectively. The England internationals pulled out due to injury concerns, but the team appears well-balanced. Their core is largely Indian, with the presence of Iyer, Rahane, Dhawan, Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Ashwin and Ishant Sharma, all experienced players. Their overseas players include Kagiso Rabada, Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and the two signings, among others.

Iyer believes the focus this time around is to ensure everyone contributes in unison, instead of having one standout performer through the season. “All pieces of the puzzle need to fall in the right place to be a champion team,” he said. “But the IPL is a long tournament and results keep going up and down invariably. The one thing that worked for us last season for how in each and every match, different players stepped up to the occasion and that was crucial to our success and will be key this year too. Having not just one consistent performer but many of them.

“Delhi hasn’t made the IPL finals, but last year we were almost there. That performance gives all of us a massive sense of belief that this bunch can do it. Yes, it will be a different IPL, we will be without our fans but that makes us extra motivated to do this for them. They will be watching and rooting for us, we really want to do this for the Delhi fans.”

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