Nine points from four matches — that’s how things stand for Delhi, who take on bottom-placed Maharashtra in their Super League Group ‘B’ match, at the Roshanara ground.
On the face of it, it seems like a one-sided affair with the home team enjoying the upper hand, but Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya isn’t taking the game lightly. “It’s going to be XI against XI,” he said. “We lost against Uttar Pradesh but Maharashtra performed well against UP. So we can’t underestimate them.”
Virat Kohli will lead the team, as Aakash Chopra, who is suffering from fever, continued to be unavailable and was replaced by Rahul Yadav. But, considering Delhi’s impressive performance against Saurashtra, they will not hit the panic button even in Chopra’s absence. Skipper Kohli came good with the runs on the fourth day, but it was wicketkeeper-batsman Puneet Bisht’s century that proved to be the turning point of the game.
Delhi, who have always taken pride in their bowling strength, are banking on Pawan Suyal, who claimed six wickets in the match, as well as Parvinder Awana and Sumit Narwal. Pradeep Sangwan wasn’t very impressive with the ball in the last match but shared in a crucial 141-run eighth-wicket stand with Bisht.
Maharashtra are a fairly young side with an average age of 21. “This is a transition phase for us,” explained manager Pandurang Salgaonkar.
The transition is being supervised by Australian coach Shaun Williams and trainer John Harrington. “They joined us last year on a three year contract. We are a good fielding side but we ended up losing the last match because of our sloppy fielding. We dropped a lot of catches and that cost us dear.” In the batting, Ankit Bawne’s 136 was the cornerstone of the team’s win against Karnataka. Wicketkeeper Rohit Motwani and Ganesh Gaikwad too have been among the runs. “We will play to our strength and it can be anybody’s match,” said skipper Harshad Khadiwale.
As is often the case, there were different opinions on how the pitch will play. Curator Daya Ram was confident the pitch would assist pacers early on and spinners later. Salgaonkar, thought otherwise: “They haven’t rolled it at all,” he said.
Dahiya’s take was that “it looks like a result-oriented wicket,” and was sure that his team would field first if they won the toss.