Momentum is a great asset in sport. One win, and suddenly a team is almost magically transformed into a hard-to-beat, cohesive unit. Winning gets easier, players rediscover a golden touch and everything is rosy.
The Delhi team would be hoping to be in exactly such a position ahead of the forthcoming Ranji season after their game against Pakistan at the Kotla here on Friday. With their Ranji opener at the same venue two days later, Vijay Dahiya's boys couldn't have asked for a sterner test. Dahiya admitted just as much. "Everyone's really excited, it's not everyday that you get to play an international side," he said. "The boys are ready to give it their best shot."
And Delhi would certainly have to give their all if they are to spring a surprise on the tourists. Already a tough ask, the job was made even tougher with Sehwag, who lost his father two days ago, Nehra, suffering from an ankle injury, and Ishant Sharma — injured shoulder — pulling out. Delhi's u-22 skipper Gaurav Chhabra has taken Sehwag's place, while Kunal Lall comes in place of Nehra.
Despite three big names missing from the team, Delhi have enough talent within their ranks. Their batting line-up is as strong as any in the country with seasoned professionals like Gautam Gambhir and Aakash Chopra complemented by exciting youngsters such as Virat Kohli and Mayank Tehlan. The bowling attack, too, is more or less a similar blend of experience and youth.
Gambhir, who will lead, was at the nets on Thursday and if the sound of leather hitting willow was any indication of form, the Pakistanis had better be worried. The Kotla wicket, which had been touted as a 'green top', will, by all indications, turn out to be a batsman's paradise after an hour's play.
As for Pakistan, while this is only a practice game, they would like to give themselves a rigorous workout ahead of Guwahati. A couple of players were curious about the Delhi team and the wicket on Thursday and said it would be nice to start their tour with an "easy win". Delhi would be hoping to make things difficult.
Delhi: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Aakash Chopra, Mithun Manhas, Mayank Tehlan, Virat Kohli, Puneet Bisht, Rajat Bhatia, Shikhar Dhawan, Pradeep Sangwan, Amit Bhandari, Chetanya Nanda and Aditya Jain, Gaurav Chhabra, Kunal Lall.
Pakistanis: Shoaib Malik (captain), Salman Butt, Imran Nazir, Yasir Hameed, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Fawad Alam, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Sohail Tanvir, Abdur Rehman and Iftikhar Anjum.