It will be a battle between two first-class teams that have been victims of maladministration when Delhi under Gautam Gambhir take on a young Rajasthan side led by Ashok Menaria in the opening game of the Ranji Trophy tournament, here on Thursday.
Purely in terms of quality, Delhi can be considered as favourites on paper but a look at the events in the past three weeks will confirm that both visiting and home teams have a lot in common.
While DDCA’s factionalism and poor administration had taken a toll on the team’s pre-season preparations, it required the intervention from the court for the Rajasthan players being able to earn their livelihood.
For Delhi, it will be a fresh start as Virender Sehwag has decided to suspend ties with his home state opting for Haryana along with another domestic legend Mithun Manhas.
A relatively young team has Gambhir at the helm. While Ajay Jadeja may have been appointed the coach by the influential people of the DDCA, it will be the discarded India left-hander who would be calling the shots.
That he has been given a lot of power was understandable when he became instrumental in convincing the selectors to drop Rajat Bhatia, who has been a standard performer and saviour for Delhi on many-a-occasions in the past few years.
On personal front, it will also be a make-or-break season for Gambhir, whose comeback in the Indian team across any of the three formats, look increasingly remote.
The pace attack is an experienced one with Parvinder Awana, skipper’s favourite Sumit Narwal, comeback Pradeep Sangwan and left-arm fast bowler Pawan Suyal.
But it is the batting that will be a cause of concern for Gambhir. Apart from him and his deputy Unmukt Chand, who is into his fifth season, the others are thin on experience.
Vaibhav Rawal and Milind Kumar are the two players expected to substitute Sehwag and Manhas. Wicketkeeper Mohit Ahlawat and off-spinner Pulkit Narang are likely to make their debuts.
Delhi: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Unmukt Chand (vice-captain), Vaibhav Rawal, Milind Kumar, Nitish Rana, Yogesh Nagar, Mannan Sharma, Pulkit Narang, Sumit Narwal, Pawan Suyal, Sarang Rawat, Pradeep Sangwan, Parvinder Awana, Mohit Ahlawat (wk), Dhruv Shorey.
Rajasthan: Ashok Menaria (captain), Vineet Saxena (vice-captain), Pranay Sharma, Rajesh Bishnoi (Sr), Puneet Yadav, Arjit Gupta, Ankit Lamba, Dishant Yagnik (wk), Ajay Singh Kookna, Aniket Choudhary, Nathu Singh, Deepak Chahar, Manjeet Kumar Choudhary, Surya Prakash Suwalka, Madhur Khatri.