The Ranji Trophy opener is always a tough one. Teams have little knowledge about the opponents' form and have to rely mostly on the statistics from the previous season, which more often than not are misleading.
Delhi and Bengal, who will square up at the Ferozeshah Kotla in an opening round fixture from Monday, will, however, have a relatively better idea of each other.
Thanks to miscommunication somewhere, both teams turned up at the same time for practice and ended up having a joint net session. The close to three hours they spent together in the same nets must have given both sides some idea about the form and fitness of the opposition. Even as the teams prepared hard for the clash, a striking similarity between the two caught one's eye. Both teams have entered the fray this time with new coaches and captains.
While Bengal have installed WV Raman and Manoj Tiwary as coach and captain, respectively, Delhi have Manoj Prabhakar and Mithun Manhas in those roles. The new coaches, to their credit, reportedly asserted themselves to get a captain named for the entire season, doing away with the absurd practice of naming captains for two or three matches.
Delhi, in particular, played under three different captains last season, turning the captaincy almost into a musical chair competition. "We wanted a captain who's available to us for the entire season. It not only gives that particular person the necessary confidence but also helps the team in terms of continuity," said Prabhakar.
Even as both sides mouthed customary quotes full of confidence, one felt inclined to give Delhi the advantage.
Delhi do look a better side, at least on the batting front. Even though Delhi will be without their tried and tested opening pair of Aakash Chopra and Shikhar Dhawan as the former will turn out for Rajasthan this season, there's enough depth in batting department with the likes of Virat Kohli and Mithun Manhas. Bengal batting line-up, on the other hand, doesn't inspire too much confidence, with lot depending on captain Manoj Tiwary and Arindam Das.
Delhi would have been on firmer footing only if they knew how the infamous Kotla track would behave. The consensus seems to be that it's going to be a traditional track here where the ball will keep low and come slowly to the bat.