That the Delhi players realise the importance of their match against Gujarat could be gauged from their training session at the Sardar Patel Stadium here on Saturday. There was an extra spring in the step, an unmistakable sense of urgency among the players.
The top-order Delhi are so reliant on has failed to come good so far, with the responsibility of taking the team as close to the opposition total invariably falling on the tail. And perhaps that was why the Delhi bowlers decided to bat for rather long periods at the nets. Five points from three matches may not be reason enough for the champions to panic, but anything less than a win against a Gujarat side that lie second in the table could be fatal to a quarterfinal berth. Already having lost four players to the national cause, skipper Aakash Chopra could well have done with Rajat Bhatia and Ashish Nehra. While Bhatia is all set to tie the knot, Nehra’s right hamstring has had the team in knots for quite sometime now.
The wicket in Valsad has traditionally assisted the fast bowlers with bounce and, keeping this in mind, Delhi have decided against dropping one of the three pacers to accommodate the extra spinner. Even as the bowling remains unchanged, the batting is expected to be tweaked.
Gaurav Chhabra and Yogesh Nagar are in line for their Ranji debuts. Chhabra should come in for Bhatia, while Aditya Jain could be dropped for Nagar. Everything has to go right for Delhi to stay in the hunt for a quarterfinal berth.
Gujarat have found their feet in the Elite division quickly after one season of relative obscurity in the Plate. They have shown enough promise to suggest that a quarterfinal berth might not be far away. Skipper Parthiv Patel shares the batting responsibility with Niraj Patel and Nilesh Modi. It is the bowling where the hosts seem to score over Delhi. In Ashraf Makda and Mohnish Parmar, Gujarat have two bowlers who have 26 wickets between themselves so far, while pacer Siddharth Trivedi, with 14 scalps, could prove tricky. Parthiv has made one change to the team, opting for an extra fast bowler in Iswar Chaudhary in place of Amit Singh.
Though just three matches into the season, for Delhi, Valsad could be where it all ends, or starts.