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Big game hunting

india Updated: Nov 15, 2008 23:17 IST
Arjun Sen

Winning, it is believed, is not everything in sport. It is the ambition, and not the outcome, that counts. Try telling that to the Mumbai or Delhi players. For when it comes to Delhi v Mumbai, winning is all that matters and nothing else suffices.

It is the big one. Defending champions Delhi take on the might of Mumbai and neither wants to lose. Judging exclusively on the starts these two teams have had to the season, it would be safe to say Mumbai are the favourites. But, like so many times before in this rivalry, the formbook could amount to precious little.

Delhi haven’t looked like defending champions in the first two games of the season. Their batting has flattered to deceive, often trying to dominate opposition bowling attacks far too quickly, while the bowling has been off-colour. Four points from two matches isn’t the kind of return skipper Aakash Chopra would have wanted, and with the dropping of veteran pacer Amit Bhandari grabbing all the headlines instead of the cricket, the hosts know they must win against Mumbai and get the season back on track.

A task easier said than done. Already missing four key players – Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma and Virat Kohli, Delhi were dealt another massive blow at Hyderabad when Ashish Nehra did his right hamstring in. While the team insisted that a final call on Nehra’s inclusion in the playing XI would be taken on Sunday, it would be of little surprise to see him sit this one out. If Nehra doesn’t make it, Delhi’s pace attack will consist of the relatively inexperienced trio of Pradeep Sangwan, Parwinder Awana and Sumit Narwal. Delhi’s batsmen have let the team down in both matches so far, and need to get their act together as soon as possible.

For Mumbai, however, there seem to be no such concerns. Wasim Jaffer’s men have got off to a flier this season, winning both their matches – against Rajasthan and Gujarat – with a bonus point. Sitting pretty on top of the group with 12 points, Mumbai could be just a win away from qualifying to the quarterfinals. Despite Rohit Sharma away and all-rounder Abhishek Nayar down with dengue, Mumbai look the balanced of the two teams. And perhaps, it was this all-round strength of the opposition that had the Delhi think-tank in two minds about the kind of wicket they want.

Jaffer leads the batting and will expect able support from Sahil Kukreja and Ajinkya Rahane. Though Ajit Agarkar skipped practice on Saturday with fever, he is expected to shoulder the fast bowling load along with the highly rated Dhawal Kulkarni.

This match is about much, much more than the six points. It is about pride, bragging rights and proving a point.