If not a clash of domestic cricket titans, the opening round of the Ranji Trophy’s 88th edition between Maharashtra and Delhi was supposed to be a faceoff between rising stars in the Indian Premier League (IPL).
But a spate of injuries in the Maharashtra camp means the host outfit, despite having stormed into its maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy final last week, enters the contest with its back against the wall.
Captain Ruturaj Gaikwad (groin), veteran batter Ankeet Bawane (quadricep) and key pacer Mukesh Choudhary (back strain) have been ruled out of the opening round. As a result, Delhi - led by a young captain in Yash Dhull and boosted with the presence of stalwart Ishant Sharma - will be hoping to start its campaign with a win.
Maharashtra, on the other hand, will be banking its hopes on Rahul Tripathi to lead it from the front. The stylish batter arrived from Bangladesh early morning on Monday and had his first real hit of the season with the red-ball at the Maharashtra Cricket Association stadium at Gahunje later in the afternoon.
It will be interesting to see whether he can make the adjustment while facing the cherry, that too against an attack led by Ishant. With overcast conditions likely to prevail for the first two days at least, it’s a no-brainer that both teams will field three pacers each.
While Ishant will be keen on helping his team get off on a winning note - and serve a polite reminder to IPL franchise ahead of the next week’s auction - it will be interesting to see the young turks from India’s last Under-19 World Cup shape up against each other.
Rajvardhan Hangargekar, the express pacer, will make his First Class debut against Dhull, his U-19 captain. Besides, Maharashtra is likely to include at least one of Kaushal Tambe (off-spin allrounder) and Vicky Ostwal (left-arm pacer and a handy bat) - both being part of India’s victorious U-19 World Cup campaign earlier this year - in the team.
The teams (from):
Delhi: Yash Dhull (Capt.), Himmat Singh (Vice-capt.), Dhruv Shorey, Anuj Rawat (w.k.), Vaibhav Rawal, Lalit Yadav, Nitish Rana, Ayush Badoni, Hrithik Shokeen, Shivank Vashisth, Vikas Mishra, Jonty Sidhu, Ishant Sharma, Mayank Yadav, Harshit Rana, Simarjeet Singh, Lakshay Thareja (w.k.), Transhu Vijayran.
Maharashtra: Rahul Tripathi (Capt.), Pawan Shah, Atharva Dharmadhikari, Azim Kazi, Naushad Shaikh, Kaushal Tambe, Satyajeet Bachhav, Saurabh Navale (w.k.), Siddhesh Veer, Vicky Ostwal, Rajvardhan Hangargekar, Pradeep Dadhe, Ashay Palkar, Manoj Ingale, Taranjeet Singh, Harshal Kate.
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