Rishabh Pant's replacement: Delhi Capitals set to sign Abishek Porel
Porel was part of a group of uncapped Indian wicketkeepers who underwent trials with the franchise over the past week
Delhi Capitals are set to sign Bengal's Abishek Porel as a replacement for the injured Rishabh Pant ahead of IPL 2023. Porel's signing, which is yet to be announced officially, comes following a series of practice games at a week-long preparatory camp in New Delhi.
Porel and three other uncapped wicketkeepers - Sheldon Jackson, Luvnith Sisodia and Vivek Singh - had been put through a series of match simulation exercises, apart from being monitored by the Capitals coaching group, headed by director of cricket Sourav Ganguly and head coach Ricky Ponting, over the past week.
Capitals' punt on Porel comes on the back of his first full season with Bengal in domestic cricket, where he impressed with his glove work but failed to make big scores across formats.
His three outings in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy brought him 22 runs, with one of those knocks being an unbeaten 20. He has slightly better returns in first-class cricket, having managed six half-centuries across 26 innings with a best of 73.
Sarfaraz Khan still Delhi Capitals' front-runner?
Porel could yet be a back-up wicketkeeping option with the franchise keen on trialling Sarfaraz Khan in the role. Sarfaraz has been in prime form with the bat over the past three domestic seasons. In fact, he's one of only two players to have scored over 900 runs in two consecutive Ranji Trophy seasons (2019-20 and 2021-22). This time around, he managed 556 runs in six innings.
Sarfaraz, who played a clutch knock to deliver Mumbai the title in the Syed Mushtaq Ali final last November, was picked up for his base price of INR 20 lakh last year. He featured in six games in IPL 2022, batting in the lower middle order for 91 runs with a best of 36 not out.
With Pant unavailable - he's recovering from injuries sustained in a serious car crash in December - the team management had sounded out Sarfaraz as early as January to be ready for the wicketkeeper's role. It's a role he'd carried out for Mumbai at the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s.
Phil Salt also in the running
The only other wicketkeeping option Capitals had was England's Phil Salt, who was signed for his base price of INR 2 crore at this year's auction. Salt is coming off a "frustrating time" in Bangladesh during the white-ball series. However, he comes with the experience of having played 180 T20s that have brought him 4118 runs at a strike rate of 149.79, much of it in the top order.
With Capitals' top-three set to be David Warner, Prithvi Shaw and Mitchell Marsh, it's likely they may find it hard to fit Salt in in his preferred position (11 of his 15 T20I innings have come at Nos. 1-3), and this could play to Sarfaraz's advantage.
Capitals begin their campaign on April 1 in an away fixture against Lucknow Super Giants.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo