The outcome of the upcoming Delhi-Maharashtra Ranji Trophy match could well have a bearing on the fortunes of the second qualifying team from Group ‘A’. The host, second behind the all-conquering Karnataka, at 17 points – seven ahead of Maharashtra – will be looking to stay unbeaten this week to brighten its prospects of advancing in the championship.
The visiting side will be keen to get at least three points to keep alive its chances of qualifying. After all, Maharashtra’s last league match will be against the last-placed Assam next week. Since Delhi ends the league phase with the tie against a struggling host Hyderabad, it has a fair chance to make up for the lost opportunities against Maharashtra.
As things stand, Delhi looks better of the two teams clashing at the Air Force Palam Ground here from Thursday. Ishant Sharma is expected to turn out for his home side after BCCI released him as he did not make it to India's XI against Sri Lanka, in the ongoing Test match at Kolkata. Maharashtra, which played its last game with four medium-pacers at home on a ‘green’ top, can be expected to go in with two medium pacers and three spinners to meet the challenge.
Maharashtra, clearly the more desperate of the two sides, has been struggling due to the poor form of its openers, much like Delhi’s exasperation in seeing Unmukt Chand fail again and again. Whether Unmukt makes the playing eleven after just about keeping his place in the squad remains to be seen. The opener, if given a chance, should come good in this game otherwise it could well be curtains for him.
Delhi’s batsmen, barring Gautam Gambhir, failed in the last game against Karnataka but what should be more worrying for skipper Rishabh Pant is the way the bowlers bowled last week. By taking 884 runs off the Delhi bowlers, Karnataka has clearly softened up the Delhi bowlers. Can the Maharashtra batsmen, struggling to score big after getting their eyes in, come good against this deflated attack, remains to be seen.
With the winter having set in, the conditions of the first hour could test the men from Maharashtra more. Delhi has the resources to keep Maharashtra at bay. And given the lack of consistency of the visiting batsmen this season, Delhi could come out stronger.
Delhi: Rishabh Pant (capt.), Unmukt Chand, Gautam Gambhir, Vikas Tokas, Vikas Mishra, Dhruv Shorey, Himmat Singh, Navdeep Saini, Nitish Rana, Anuj Rawat, Pulkit Narang, Manan Sharma, Milind Kumar, Kulwant Khejroliya and Kunal Chandela.
Maharashtra: Ankeet Bawane (capt.), Harshad Khadiwale, Swapnil Gugale, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Naushad Shaikh, Rahul Tripathi, Chirag Khurana, Murtaza Trunkwala, Prayag Bhati, Rohit Motwani (wk), Satyajeet Bachhav, Samad Fallah, Pradeep Dadhe, Mukesh Choudhary and Nikit Dhumal.