Delhi Capitals have decided to retain the quartet of Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Axar Patel and Anrich Nortje for IPL 2022. However, Capitals' former captain Shreyas Iyer, who made his Test debut on Thursday, has opted to go into the auction instead.

While Capitals could see Iyer's exit as a setback, they wouldn't have been entirely surprised by the batter's decision. After all, they had already invested in a new leader - Pant taking responsibility when Iyer injured his shoulder and couldn't play the first leg of the 2021 season.

Now that he is a free agent, Iyer can be bought by one of the two new teams set to take part in next year's IPL. ESPNcricinfo understands that four of the original eight are also on the lookout for a new captain so Iyer - who skippered the Capitals to their first ever final in 2019 - will not be short of options.

Pant, it is learnt, was the first name on the Capitals' retention list. Iyer was next in line but as soon as he ruled himself out his spot went to Shaw. The 22-year old has prospered under Ricky Ponting and Praveen Amre's guidance and become one of the most destructive openers in India.

Capitals had a tougher time finalising Norje and Axar. Nortje, who had joined them in 2020, faced stiff competition from his South Africa team-mate Kagiso Rabada. Eventually the ability to pick up early wickets - 12 of his 34 strikes have come in the first six overs - and an excellent economy rate in the death overs (7.82 vs Rabada's 9.44) tipped the scales in Nortje's favour.

Axar's battle was with senior India batter Shikhar Dhawan, who re-joined Capitals in 2019 after being traded by Sunrisers Hyderabad.

Dhawan made 1726 runs in 49 innings since returning to the franchise with whom he made his IPL debut. An average of 39 and a strike-rate of 135 mean he has been Capitals' best batter over the last three seasons but he lost out because Axar presented a better all-round package. The left-arm spinner has claimed 34 wickets in his last 41 games. His economy rate of 6.73 is the best among all Capitals players who have bowled at least 50 deliveries since 2019. And he was the joint-highest wicket-taker during the recent T20I series against New Zealand, while conceding just one six.

The IPL had set November 30 as the deadline for the eight existing franchises to retain a maximum of four players. The the two new ones - based in Lucknow and Ahmedabad - could then buy upto three players from the non-retained lot by December 25.

If a team retains four players, they lose INR 42 crore from an INR 90 crore purse. The Capitals will thus enter the auction with INR 48 crore. If the team retains three players, that's INR 33 crore, INR 24 crore for two players and INR 14 crore if it's just one player. A retained uncapped player gets a maximum of INR 4 crore. Importantly, the player has the ultimate authority to decide whether he wants to be retained or be part of the auction.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo