The defeat against Karnataka in the previous match still hurts Delhi. The high of a win against Assam and the draw against Maharashtra look like an illusion for a team that has a new coach in K.P. Bhaskar, who played for Delhi when it was a team to reckon with. On the eve of its Ranji Trophy match against Odisha here, Bhaskar looked back wistfully at those glorious days.
“Never was Delhi bowled out for less than 100,” said Bhaskar. It came close once though — against Services at Kotla in 1984 — when Delhi was reduced to 76 for seven.
Bhaskar hit a brilliant 135, an innings that inspired the team to pull off a nine-wicket victory. A pity Bhaskar cannot replay the video of that innings. There is none. But he can surely share some memorable moments to drive home the point that Delhi was once one of the finest professional units in Indian cricket.
Raman Lamba, a fierce competitor, once broke his bat after a stupendous innings in the final of the Duleep Trophy against West Zone at Bhilai in 1987. “Missed a 400,” he cursed himself. Lamba had constructed a superb 320 off 471 balls. Such was the commitment in the Delhi dressing room.
Gautam Gambhir brings that competitive flavour to the current Delhi team, having once swung the semifinal (against Baroda) and the final (against Uttar Pradesh) in the 2007-08 season single-handedly with knocks of 132 and 130 not out. Delhi has not won the title since. His contributions to Delhi cricket can just be the motivation for the current lot where Unmukt Chand, Rishabh Pant, Nitish Rana and Dhruv Shorey have it in them to deliver. The presence of Ishant Sharma lends teeth to the attack which has been bolstered by the inclusion of the veteran Sumit Narwal in place of an off-form Parvinder Awana.
The pitch at the Punjab Cricket Stadium promises to produce a result. “It looks seamer-friendly,” said Odisha coach Debasis Mohanty, who would have loved to bowl on this track. “There is some grass on the pitch and I expect it to be a good contest. We love to play fearless cricket and perform as a team. There are no individual heroes in our team,” said Mohanty.
For Bhaskar it is a challenge that brings back some fond memories. “We always believed in playing for pride. This is an immensely talented team and I expect them to play to their potential. We have a nice blend and I am sure the boys would have learnt lessons from the last match.”
Delhi: Gautam Gambhir (capt.), Unmukt Chand, Dhruv Shorey, Nitish Rana, Rishabh Pant, Milind Kumar, Manan Sharma, Varun Sood, Sumit Narwal, Vikas Tokas, Ishant Sharma, Subodh Bhati, Vaibhav Rawal, Pulkit Narang and Pawan Suyal.
Odisha: Govinda Poddar (capt.), Sandeep Pattnaik, Ranjit Singh, Anurag Sarangi, Subhranshu Senapati, Biplab Samantray, Saurabh Rawat, Deepak Behera, Basant Mohanty, Suryakant Pradhan, Dhiraj Singh, Halhadar Das, Manoj Nayak, Anshuman Gope and Abinash Saha.
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