Ranji Trophy: Bolstered Delhi faces Rajasthan

Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir are back for domestic duty and will bolster the Delhi side in a Ranji Trophy Group B tie against Rajasthan at the picturesque Wayanad Cricket Stadium.

Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir during Delhi's training session ahead of the Ranji Trophy match against Rajasthan.   -  Special Arrangement

Rishabh Pant is the leading run-getter in the Ranji Trophy tournament this season so far, while Pankaj Singh tops the bowlers’ list. They come face to face in the Group B match between Delhi and Rajasthan starting at the picturesque Wayanad Cricket Stadium here on Monday.

But, they won’t be the only two men in the spotlight over the next four days. Two other men are certain to be keenly watched by many, including the Indian selectors. The openers from Delhi, Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir, have both played Tests this season and would be itching to get back into the Indian team.

Dhawan is returning to action with this match after injuring his left thumb during the Kolkata Test against New Zealand seven weeks ago. His presence, along with that of Gambhir, will bolster the strong batting line-up of Delhi further. Unmukt Chand, who had been leading the side in the absence of Gambhir, Milind Kumar, Nitish Rana and Dhruv Shorey have all been amongst the runs. But, of course, they have been overshadowed by the brilliance and flamboyance of Pant.

The 19-year-old wicket-keeper has so far scored 799 runs from five matches at a stunning average of 114.4 and an even more stunning strike rate of 113.01, not to mention the triple hundred and the fastest First Class hundred by an Indian.

'Something for the seamers'

Delhi’s coach, K. P. Bhaskar, is also glad that all his bowlers are fit. “It is good to see my pace bowlers Pradeep Sangwan, Navdeep Saini and Sumit Narwal are in good shape,” he said. “It looks a good wicket and I believe there would be something for the seamers.”

That is what his counterpart is also hoping for. Rajasthan coach Amit Asawa is banking on his pace attack. “Pankaj has been outstanding right through the season,” he said. “Our left-armers Aniket Choudhary and Tanvir-Ul-Haq have also been bowling really well.”

He could not have said the same about his batsmen, though. The batting hasn’t quite clicked so far; the only batsman to score a hundred been 17-year-old Salman Khan, who made 110 against Odisha on debut at Patiala earlier this month.

“Yes, our batsmen have to come up with better performances,” said Asawa. “I hope they put enough runs on the board for our bowlers. Bowling is indeed our strength.”

It could well be a match between Rajasthan’s bowling and Delhi’s batting. Both the sides are on 12 points, coming into this match. But Delhi has played only five games, one less than Rajasthan.

They are quite some distance away from the group leaders Karnataka (29) and Rajasthan (26). In other words, they both have to look for maximum points here.

The teams:

Delhi: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Unmukt Chand, Dhruv Shorey, Milind Kumar, Nitish Rana, Rishabh Pant, Manan Sharma, Pradeep Sangwan, Navdeep Saini, Sumit Narwal, Vikas Tokas, Sarthak Ranjan, Pulkit Narang and Varun Sood. Coach: K.P. Bhaskar.

Rajasthan: Pankaj Singh (captain), Manendra Singh, Pranay Sharma, Amit Gautam, Puneet Yadav, Mahipal Lomror, Salman Khan, Chetan Bist, Tanveer-Ul-Haq, Deepak Chahar, Aniket Choudhary, Ankit Lamba, Rajesh Bishnoi Sr., Rajesh Bishnoi Jr. and Chanderpal Singh. Coach: Amit Asawa.