The most eagerly awaited match in the Ranji Trophy Super League begins on Friday with thirty seven times champions Mumbai taking on six-time winners Delhi in the third round at the Wankhede Stadium.
Both sides have eight points apiece and a win here would go a long way in deciding who would dominate the group en route to the knock out stage. Delhi begin favourites with their batting bolstered by the return of captain Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. A big knock could land at least one of them a passage to Down Under next month.
In contrast, Mumbai are weakened by the absence of Test opener Wasim Jaffer, who has been prolific against Delhi. His replacement Rohit Sharma can make quite difference at number three, though. Though the right-handed batsman missed Thursday's nets due to an upset belly, Rohit will play on Friday, assured Mumbai captain Amol Muzumdar.
However, recent clashes between the two teams gives Mumbai the edge, as they have three outright wins and three first innings points in their last six meetings. "As a batsman, you are charged up against Delhi. You focus more," said Muzumdar.
With the two big names in Delhi cricket returning to the side, coach Vijay Dahiya had to omit left-handed opener Shikhar Dhawan, who scored a century against Saurashtra, and Mayank Tehlan. Dahiya will also hand over a maiden state cap to off-spinner Narinder Singh, in place of speedster Amit Bhandari. Narinder, with a bagful of wickets in the under-19 competition, will share the spin department with leggie Chetanya Nanda.
Delhi pacer Ishant Sharma arrived on Thursday afternoon and had a bowl in the nets. With the exciting Pradeep Sangwan, Sharma should pose serious questions to Mumbai openers Sahil Kukreja and Ajinkya Rahane.
Mumbai will go in with two medium-pacers Ajit Agarkar and Avishkar Salvi, who made a successful return to Ranji Trophy against Tamil Nadu last week, and two spinners, with medium-pacer Abhishek Nayar as the third seamer.
There were enough indications that 20-year-old leg-spinner Bhavesh Patel would make his Mumbai debut, complementing off-spinner Ramesh Powar. Left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla is likely to be left out after he managed only four wickets in the last two matches.
After sending down his quota of deliveries at the nets, Bhavesh was told to bat, and later was seen exchanging words with Muzumdar. "I am sure he will not be overawed by the occasion," said Muzumdar. "Whoever plays for Mumbai are streetsmart, considering the amount of cricket they play in the maidans across the city."