Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy: Punjab challenge for Delhi

Under the leadership of new skipper, Pradeep Sangwan, Delhi would be hoping to get off to a winning start against Punjab on Monday. In other matches, Himachal Pradesh will take on Haryana while Jammu & Kashmir would take on Services.

While the team management was said to be upset with Gautam Gambhir – the team's top-scorer this season – for disciplinary issues, that didn't stop them from including him.   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

Fifteen hours after the Delhi team for the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy was finally announced, the players assembled at the Feroz Shah Kotla for their first pre-match practice session on Sunday, going through warm-ups before making its way to the rear of the stadium.

The team selection was delayed by a couple of days for lack of consensus. The final list saw some surprise inclusions and sacking of the captain Rishabh Pant, to make way for a new captain Pradeep Sangwan — who is coming back from injury. All this, despite the team reaching the final of the Ranji Trophy after a decade and winning the U-23 title.

Some of those youngsters – leg-spinner Tejas Baroka, Lalit Yadav, Gourav Kumar – have been rewarded while some like Hiten Dalal ignored.

Among the seniors, Manan Sharma, former vice-captain Milind Kumar and Unmukt Chand have been dropped from the side, which would be led by seamer Pradeep Sangwan. Returning to action after almost seven months, Sangwan replaced youngster Rishabh Pant. While the team management was said to be upset with Gautam Gambhir – the team's top-scorer this season – for disciplinary issues, that didn't stop them from including him.

Given such a situation, it would be each man for himself when Delhi takes on Punjab in its opening game on Tuesday, a good performance going a long way in catching the fancy of some of the IPL franchise scouts sure to be present. Ironically Pant, despite being relieved of his captaincy, would be the only one from Delhi without any performance pressure after being retained by Delhi Daredevils as one of their three picks for the upcoming edition.

Its opponent, in contrast, had a disappointing Ranji Trophy season but also has players hoping to prove a point. If Mandeep Singh would be looking to prove his fitness in the shortest format after recovering from a serious back surgery that kept him out of action for a large part of 2017, young Anmolpreet Singh would be looking to stake his claim in T20s after a stellar run throughout the domestic season both in Under-23 and Ranji Trophy despite being constantly shunted between the two. Captain Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj still harbour hopes of staying relevant. Regulars Manan Vohra, Siddharth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma and Barinder Sran, would be looking to simply make their presence felt among the franchises.

On Monday, Himachal Pradesh will take on Haryana while Jammu & Kashmir would take on Services. With the tournament having been rescheduled by the BCCI at this time specifically with the IPL auctions at the end of January in mind, the focus will largely be on individual performances.