When they turned up for the North Zone Ranji one-dayers last season, Delhi were the in-form team. They had just won the Ranji Trophy after 16 years and were high on form. That showed in the abbreviated format as they raced to the top of the table, pulverizing the opposition that came in their way.
That rollicking form and the champions' attitude would be missing this time around. Delhi have had an average Ranji Trophy season and might struggle before getting their act together.
Nevertheless, it's still impossible not to see them as the firm favourites in the tournament. Delhi look experienced and balanced with enough firepower in both batting and bowling. They have the most settled batting line-up in Aakash Chopra, Shikhar Dhawan, Rajat Bhatia, Mithun Minhas and Virat Kohli. The four-pronged pace attack of Sumit Narwal, Parvinder Awana, Pradeep Sangwan and Ashish Nehra would pose a challenge in the cool and moist conditions.
However, Delhi being the favourites has to do with their resilience as also with the state the other teams find themselves in. Punjab, their strongest rivals, are still going through the rebuilding phase after the exodus to the Indian Cricket League. Except for skipper Pankaj Dharmani and pacer Gagandeep Singh, the team is inexperienced, with many players either just two or three seasons old and quite a few coming from the under-19 ranks.
From being the favourite whipping boys in the zone along with Jammu and Kashmir and Services, Himachal Pradesh have become quite competitive. They were the second team to qualify for the knockout behind Delhi last season, and can be expected to be competitive.
Haryana haven't been able to field a strong team for some time now. They depend too heavily on Joginder Sharma and skipper Amit Mishra, and wouldn't be a force to reckon with until the others chip in.
As for J&K and Services, they would need to play out of their skins.