Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma’s return to the Delhi side for its high-profile Ranji Trophy Group B clash against Karnataka in Eden Gardens could not have occurred at a better time.

Delhi, which is at the top of the table with eight points from one win and one draw, needed a few experienced hands while facing a star-studded Karnataka, flaunting at least five internationals. Gambhir, who missed the first two matches because of India duty, and Ishant, who was down with a bout of dengue, have bolstered Delhi, which is loaded with young turks.

Gambhir was at the helm when Delhi made some drastic changes last year with an eye on the future. Now, the seasoned opener is back to guide the talented bunch against the toughest side in the group.

Besides, Gambhir’s fine form, and his familiarity with the Eden Gardens, both as a captain of Kolkata Knight Riders and as a player in the second Test against New Zealand, should serve his team well. Gambhir performed impressively in the Duleep Trophy and scored a half-century in his comeback Test in Indore.

Pacer Ishant’s experience will come in handy. His keenness to prove his fitness and form will add teeth to Delhi’s attack, which also comprises fellow seamers Parvinder Awana, Pawan Suyal and Subodh Bhati.

Manan Sharma, Pulkit Narang and Varun Sood present good options in the spin department as Delhi tries to perform better after conceding 635 runs, including a record third-wicket partnership, against Maharashtra. Triple centurion Rishabh Pant, Unmukt Chand, Milind Kumar, Nitish Rana and Dhruv Shorey give solidity to the batting.

“Adaptability is the key when you play at neutral venues. How quickly you adapt yourself to different conditions is very important,” said Delhi coach K.P. Bhaskar.

Karun Nair to lead Karnataka

Karnataka, which will miss its captain Vinay Kumar’s services due to a calf-muscle issue, will be led by Karun Nair. The team, which gathered three points from its opening match against Jharkhand, will take heart from the fine form of double-centurion R. Samarth, Nair, Stuart Binny and M. K. Abbas. Mayank Agarwal, Robin Uthappa and C.M. Gautam provide depth to the batting.

In Vinay’s absence, Abhimanyu Mithun, S. Aravind and Binny will shoulder more responsibility in the pace department. Leg-spinner Shreyas Gopal and off-spinner K. Gowtham may play crucial roles as the pitch is expected to keep low and become slow with the progress of the match.

“Delhi is a competitive side but we will play to our strength. Building big partnerships will be important here,” said Nair.

The teams:

Delhi: Gautam Gambhir (Captain), Ishant Sharma, Unmukt Chand, Rishab Pant (wk), Milind Kumar, Nitish Rana, Manan Sharma, Dhruv Shorey, Varun Sood, Pawan Suyal, Subodh Bhati, Pulkit Narang, Vaibhav Rawal, Vikas Tokas, Parvinder Awana.

Karnataka: Karun Nair (Captain), R. Samarth, Robin Uthappa, Mayank Agarwal, C.M. Gautam (wk), Stuart Binny, Shreyas Gopal, S. Aravind, Abhimanyu Mithun, Abrar Kazi, Mir Kaunain Abbas, Pavan Deshpande, Arjun Hoysala, K. Gowtham, Ronit More.