Rana hopeful of winning start to Delhi captaincy debut

The new Delhi skipper Nitish Rana expects nothing less than six points from its Ranji Trophy 2018-19 season opener against Himachal Pradesh beginning Monday.

Nitish Rana (R) has taken over the captaincy after Gautam Gambhir stepped down from the role last week.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Gautam Gambhir has refused to share the burden of captaincy this season and the senior pro on Sunday preferred to knock about and leave early, before the rest of the team even warmed up, as Delhi kickstarts its season in the Ranji Trophy against Himachal Pradesh. His successor Nitish Rana, however, toiled hard at the Ferozeshah Kotla nets, and wanted nothing less than three points from the game starting on Monday.
 

Leading the state side for the first time ever, the 24-year old though insists there is no pressure and is living his dream. “I never captained the side even in age-group tournaments but always wanted to lead in the Ranji Trophy so this is a wish-fulfilment for me. Also, Gambhir has set high benchmarks as the captain and I hope to learn as much as possible this season from his presence in the dressing room,” Rana said.

His own form has been impressive and was the second-highest scorer for Delhi in the competition last season (613 runs at 55.72 avg) and has been among runs in the shorter formats this season (512 runs at 42.66 avg). The batting department looks healthy enough for the host, though the absence of Rishabh Pant would be felt. The selectors have dropped the experienced but inconsistent Unmukt Chand, preferring to keep their faith in Anuj Rawat behind the stumps, and the likes of Dhruv Shorey, Himmat Singh and Hiten Dalal would have to score.

It’s the bowling that would be a concern though Ishant Sharma – who led the side last season and was a key figure in their journey to the final – would be present for the first game. Kulwant Khejroliya would be the other seamer, Navdeep Saini, however, would be unavailable for the season.

The visitor, meanwhile, would be hoping to get its campaign back on track after conceding the first-innings lead to Bengal in its first round match at home. Interestingly, while the BCCI had stipulated neutral curators for all games, the onus of preparing the pitch here for the upcoming game is on Sunil Chauhan, the chief curator at HPCA’s Dharamshala Stadium. That, however, is likely to make little difference to the surface that hosted the Deodhar Trophy recently and had little assistance for the bowlers.
 

The teams (from)

Delhi: Nitish Rana (captain), Dhruv Shorey, Gautam Gambhir, Hiten Dalal, Himmat Singh, Anuj Rawat, Ishant Sharma, Kulwant Khejroliya, Vikas Mishra, Lalit Yadav, Simarjit Singh, Vaibhav Rawal, Varun Sood, Sarthak Ranjan, Shivank Vashisth.

Himachal: Ankush Bains, Pankaj Jaiswal, Rishi Dhawan, Prashant Chopra (captain), Nikhil Gangta, Sumeet Verma, Priyanshu Khanduri, Akash Vashisht, Ekant Sen, Gurvinder Singh, Shresth Nirmohi, Mayank Dagar, Ankit Kalsi, Amit Kumar, Raghav Dhawan.