Mumbai versus Delhi is El Classico of Indian domestic cricket. But the Ranji Trophy semifinal that begins here on Sunday between these two teams is bereft of some big names.
Still the coaches of both teams have promised that the fight for a spot in the final will be fought as keenly as ever.
Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Ashish Nehra are touring Bangladesh with the Indian team and are therefore off the Delhi roster. Similarly, Mumbai will miss Rohit Sharma and Zaheer Khan. And Sachin Tendulkar has opted out of both the international tour and the Delhi tie.
Inarguably, Ishant Sharma is the biggest name in the match. And the seemingly sporting track at the Cricket Club of India here would have pleased the lanky pacer, as both the teams went through the nets on Saturday.
Tackling Ishant and Pradeep Sangwan would top the list of Mumbai’s priorities. Captain Wasim Jaffer said he will open the innings. He has been playing one-down this season.
“I will open the innings with Sahil (Kukreja),” Jaffer said. “We have not been getting the starts. I have to take the responsibility to see off the new ball and post a good total.”
Apart from Ishant and Sangwan, Delhi’s bowling looks impressive with the presence of in-form medium pacers, Parvinder Awana and Pavan Suyal.
Injury woes for Mumbai
Delhi’s pacers are not Mumbai’s only worry. Injury to Dhaval Kulkarni, their second most effective bowler, may force him to sit out.
“It is unlikely Dhaval will play,” Jaffer said. Dhaval’s absence will weaken hosts’ bowling, which is already being blamed for not getting enough outright wins. It should be noted that Mumbai’s only win of the season came against Himachal Pradesh.
“They have been playing mostly on flat tracks,” Jaffer said in support of his bowlers.
Ajit Agarkar, who has also accounted for some useful runs with the bat, has fever and is a doubtful starter.
But Jaffer is hopeful of Agarkar’s recovery. Abhishek Nayar is expected to be back in the team in place of Sushant Marathe. With his options narrowed down and bowling attack considerably weakened, the sporting wicket may not be any consolation for Jaffer.
The visitors would be bolstered by the return of Ishant and leg-spinner Chetanya Nanda. Aakash Chopra has a knee injury and will be replaced by Mayank Tehlan, who is expected to open with Shikhar Dhawan. None of the Delhi batsmen are in the list of top 15 run getters in this season. And it is their team effort, which has brought them to this stage.
Apart from Dhawan, who is in sparkling form, Delhi would largely depend on Bhatia, Manhas and Bisht, who has been the team’s top-scorer.
Both Jaffer and Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya agreed that the wicket is “result oriented and would help both batsmen and bowlers”. Asked whether he is missing big names, Dahiya said it does not matter. “Playing Mumbai is always special and tough.”
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