Vijay Hazare Trophy: All eyes on young skippers as Tamil Nadu faces Delhi

Delhi and Tamil Nadu commence the tournament with one of the most awaited contest of this tournament at the Barabati Stadium. The pitch promises a run-feast but the weather may demand the best of fitness, especially from the bowlers, on a big field.

Tamil Nadu will rely on captain Vijay Shankar as it takes on Delhi in the Vijay Hazare opener in Cuttack.   -  Photo: V.V. Subrahmanyam

 

Rishabh Pant is packing his kit bag. Two precious possessions with priceless messages from two iconic cricketers make it a treasure to pride in. “Always give your best,” signs Sachin Tendulkar at the back of one bat and “Back yourself” from Virat Kohli makes the other bat a piece of great motivation for the 19-year-old Delhi captain. He leads a team that comprises Ashish Nehra, Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir, among others.

In the other camp, Vijay Shankar, a talent worthy of investment for future, is preparing for an engrossing journey. Saddled with the responsibility of guiding a young Tamil Nadu side in the Vijay Hazare tournament here, he says, “It’s a big opportunity. I just want the team to go out and do well. The team will get to experience new things and do well collectively.”

Punjab starts favourite against Vidarbha

Delhi and Tamil Nadu commence the tournament with one of the most awaited contest of this tournament at the Barabati Stadium here. The pitch promises a run-feast but the weather may demand the best of fitness, especially from the bowlers, on a big field. Spectator response is expected to be poor even as the players show the keenness to perform and make an impression on the National selectors.

Pant and Shankar symbolise the essence of youth in Indian cricket. Pant’s electric entry to the Indian T20 squad was the culmination of a brilliant run with the bat in the first-class season, including a daring triple century. He remains the trigger point for Delhi to achieve its goal of a title to sign off the season. “We excel in this format and have the youth and experience to go the distance,” observed the Delhi coach K. P. Bhaskar.

Tamil Nadu will certainly miss the services of M. Vijay and R. Ashwin but the absence of left-arm seamer T. Natarajan and K. Vignesh due to injuries should hurt the team no less. “Things will happen if you perform,” was a realistic assessment of the situation by Shankar, who has the wily run-getter Dinesh Karthik to assist him in troubled times.

Pant looked at the upcoming match pragmatically. “More than the rigours of captaincy and wicket-keeping I am keen on seeing the team win. It’s not about an individual’s excellence. You have to perform at your best. Nothing can be better than you doing well individually and in turn helping the team win. It is an inspiring process. It’s not about one player, never,” noted the Delhi captain.

Tough fight

The other teams in the group—Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Kerala, Tripura, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh—have different challenges in their quest to qualify. Kedar Jadhav brings a touch of grit to the Maharashtra squad, while Suresh Raina and Praveen Kumar give Uttar Pradesh a competitive edge. Himachal Pradesh and Kerala would need to be far more consistent to make an impact with Tripura aiming to pull off an upset or two.

Fitness in testing playing conditions in Bhubaneswar and here hold the key for all teams. Collective performance obviously will make the difference.

The teams:

Delhi: Rishabh Pant (Capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Gautam Gambhir, Manan Sharma, Milind Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Pradeep Sangwan, Pulkit Narang, Vikas Tokas, Navdeep Saini, Sarthak Ranjan, Himmat Singh, Dhruv Shorey, Nitish Rana, Pawan Negi and Kulwant Khajroliya.

Tamil Nadu: Vijay Shankar (Capt), Dinesh Karthik, B. Aparajith, B. Indrajith, M. Kaushik, N. Jagadeesan, G. S. Raju, Aswin Crist, M. Mohammad, Antony Das, R. Rohit, Rahil Shah, M. Ashwin, Sai Kishore, Washington Sundar and S. Radhakrishnan.