Ranji Trophy: Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma ready to guide Delhi youngsters against Himachal Pradesh
With two battle hardened veterans and a bunch of sprightly young men at his disposal, it will be baptism by fire for young Nitish Rana who will lead Delhi in their Ranji Trophy opener against Himachal Pradesh, from Monday.
Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma, the two senior players are currently at the different crossroads in their respective careers.
For Ishant, a Ranji Trophy match is a like a pit-stop, where he lands occasionally to add miles to his legs before embarking on tougher assignments. This time he is here to check his match fitness before leaving for the Australia Test series.
For Gambhir, it is the business end of his career where he literally wants to take one match at a time and not think too far ahead of himself.
Having relinquished captaincy, Gambhir will certainly keep a hawk eye on Rana, who will have his first tryst with the senior team leadership. He has been made captain for the first two games.
“I am a bit nervous but I am happy that seniors like Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma are there to guide me during my first match as captain,” Rana told reporters on the eve of the game.
This is a Delhi team with an average age of 25 barring the two senior players and it will be an opportunity for them to repeat the impressive show of Vijay Hazare (National One Dayers) Trophy, where they ended runners-up to Mumbai.
It will certainly be a blessing in disguise to play a lightweight Himachal Pradesh in the opening game. Himachal have already played a game against Bengal at home and conceded first innings lead to the visitors.
However, Delhi will have their fair share of worries including the non-availability of opener Kunal Chandela, who had an impressive maiden season in last edition.
He is out with a fractured forearm and Hiten Dalal, who has played seven List A matches so far with good returns, is expected to make his first class debut. Hiten will be opening alongside Gambhir.
Vice-captain Dhruv Shorey will be batting at No. 3 while skipper Rana is expected to come in at No. 4. The immensely talented Himmat Singh will be the three-down batsman. All-rounder Lalit Yadav and keeper-batsman Anuj Rawat will be No 6 and 7.
The new ball is expected to be shared by Ishant and left-arm seamer Kulwant Khejroliya.
With Navdeep Saini in New Zealand with the India A team, Simarjeet Singh could be the third pacer in the line-up. The choice for a spinner will be between left-arm orthodox bowlers Varun Sood and Vikas Misra. Vikas will have an advantage as he had played most of the matches last season.
For Himachal, a lot will depend on their top order batsmen Prashant Chopra, Nikhil Gangta and keeper Ankush Bains.
It is the bowling which is a problem for HP. An attack comprising Shresth Nirmohi, Pankaj Jaiswal and Rishi Dhawan doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Dhawan, their premier wicket-taker is a military medium bowler, who is usually rendered ineffective when the pitch offers little help. It could well be the case on a placid Feroz Shah Kotla pitch.