Over the last few seasons, Delhi have become a factory churning out internationals. Thus the India squad’s preparation for the Test series against England and injury to all-rounder Rajat Bhatia has left the line-up packed with players who are just past their teens. So, nerves are only to be expected.
Just before close, the 20-year-old substitute Dhruv Shorey spilled a chance at third slip. The beneficiary was Odisha skipper Natraj Behera, the last recognised batsman standing between the hosts and an outright victory in their second Ranji match here.
But Shorey hasn’t been the only youngster to falter.
Milind Kumar, Mohit Sharma and India's U-19 World Cup winning skipper Unmukt Chand haven't got runs while young spinner Vikas Mishra has gone wicketless so far. Debutant Manan Sharma, after taking four wickets in first innings, is having his temperament tested in the second. Delhi chief coach Vijay Dahiya, when asked about the young batsmen on Saturday, said: “It was an opportunity for them. They should have grabbed it.”
To match the standard set by Sehwag, Gambhir, Virat and Ishant is an arduous task, but displacing the likes of Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia, who looks set to return after an injury layoff, also appears an equally tough job. Thus, for the second day running, Delhi had to fall back on experience to bail them out.
On a sluggish wicket more suited for spin, pacemen Sumit Narwal (3/41) and Pawan Suyal (2/62) bowled a controlled line to raise hopes of an outright win. Odisha, who at one point looked like pushing the game towards a draw, lost three wickets after wiping out the lead, are just 41 ahead with just four wickets in hand.
While the Delhi youngsters may have flopped, Odisha’s 21-year-old Govind Podder seems to be picking up things fast. His experience at the Kotla with the U-25 team two weeks back was of help as he hit a patient 85.