Ranji Trophy 2018-19 preview: Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma ready to guide Delhi youngsters; Bengal eye first win

With two battle-hardened veterans and a bunch of sprightly young men at his disposal, it will be baptism by fire for young Nitish Rana as he looks for guidance from Gambhir and Ishant ion his captaincy debut.

FirstCricket Staff, Nov 11, 2018 20:17:53 IST

With two battle-hardened veterans and a bunch of sprightly young men at his disposal, it will be baptism by fire for young Nitish Rana who will lead Delhi in their Ranji Trophy opener against Himachal Pradesh, from Monday.

Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma, the two senior players are currently at the different crossroads in their respective careers.

File picture of Ishant Sharma. Reuters

File picture of Ishant Sharma. Reuters

For Ishant, a Ranji Trophy match is a like a pit-stop, where he lands occasionally to add miles to his legs before embarking on tougher assignments. This time he is here to check his match fitness before leaving for the Australia Test series.

For Gambhir, it is the business end of his career where he literally wants to take one match at a time and not think too far ahead of himself.

Having relinquished captaincy, Gambhir will certainly keep a hawk eye on Rana, who will have his first tryst with the senior team leadership. He has been made captain for the first two games.

"I am a bit nervous but I am happy that seniors like Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma are there to guide me during my first match as captain," Rana told reporters on the eve of the game.

This is a Delhi team with an average age of 25 barring the two senior players and it will be an opportunity for them to repeat the impressive show of Vijay Hazare (National One Dayers) Trophy, where they ended runners-up to Mumbai.

It will certainly be a blessing in disguise to play a lightweight Himachal Pradesh in the opening game. Himachal have already played a game against Bengal at home and conceded first innings lead to the visitors.

However, Delhi will have their fair share of worries including the non-availability of opener Kunal Chandela, who had an impressive maiden season in last edition.

He is out with a fractured forearm and Hiten Dalal, who has played seven List A matches so far with good returns, is expected to make his first-class debut. Hiten will be opening alongside Gambhir.

Vice-captain Dhruv Shorey will be batting at No. 3 while skipper Rana is expected to come in at No 4. The immensely talented Himmat Singh will be the three-down batsman. All-rounder Lalit Yadav and keeper-batsman Anuj Rawat will be No 6 and 7.

The new ball is expected to be shared by Ishant and left-arm seamer Kulwant Khejroliya.

With Navdeep Saini in New Zealand with the India A team, Simarjeet Singh could be the third pacer in the line-up. The choice for a spinner will be between left-arm orthodox bowlers Varun Sood and Vikas Misra. Vikas will have an advantage as he had played most of the matches last season.

For Himachal, a lot will depend on their top order batsmen Prashant Chopra, Nikhil Gangta and keeper Ankush Bains.

It is the bowling which is a problem for HP. An attack comprising Shresth Nirmohi, Pankaj Jaiswal and Rishi Dhawan doesn't inspire much confidence.

Dhawan, their premier wicket-taker is a military medium bowler, who is usually rendered ineffective when the pitch offers little help. It could well be the case on a placid Feroz Shah Kotla pitch.

Bengal faces Madhya Pradesh, eyeing first win of the season

Bengal will look to strengthen their batting and exploit the home conditions when they host Madhya Pradesh in a second round Elite Group B Ranji Trophy fixture beginning Monday.

Both the teams have secured three points from their opening match with the help of first innings leads.

While Bengal drew against Himachal Pradesh at Nadaun, Madhya Pradesh played a drawn match against Tamil Nadu at Dindigul.

In their first match of the season, four Bengal batsmen scored half-centuries including skipper Manoj Tiwary, while three others got out for 40s and the Arun Lal-mentored side would look to convert their starts.

"Fifties and sixties don't really help, you have let the team down and the element of struggle remains. You have given it away after doing 90 percent hard work," was Lal's message to the team.

Openers Abhishek Raman (48 and 87) and Abhimnayu Easwaran (21 and 76) looked in fine form against Himachal Pradesh but could not convert their starts.

Bengal would want the openers to give a fine start by applying themselves in the tricky first hour when the ball swings and seams on the lively Eden Gardens green-top.

"The ball seams in morning session. For batsmen, if we survive till drinks, you get value for your shots. There're pros and cons," skipper Tiwary said on the eve of the match.

"I'm thinking about scoring a big one, but it's not in my hands. I'm happy with the batting but I need to focus more when I cross 50-60. I will try my best," Tiwary, who got out for 55, added.

On a high after an impressive show for Bengal in the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-dayers, Vivek Singh, who scored two half-centuries at a strike rate of 105.64, is likely to make Ranji debut for Bengal.

The 25-year-old left-handed wicket-keeper batsman also doubles up as a right-arm medium pacer but the Bengal skipper said Vivek was included in the squad to "keep wickets".

"He will keep wickets if he plays. But if he does not play Shreevats Goswami will keep wickets," Tiwary said of Vivek who played two Ranji matches for Railways in 2015.

Shreevats Goswami is going through a lean patch. He scored 10 against Himachal Pradesh and managed only 69 runs from four matches in Vijay Hazare and the wicketkeeper-batsman is likely to be axed.

Madhya Pradesh, on the other hand, will bank on their number three Rajat Patidar who scored a career-best 196 in their first innings lead in Tamil Nadu.

"It's all past. I'm trying to be in the present. The first session will be crucial. It's about surviving the first session," Patidar said.

Madhya Pradesh boast of promising young pace duo in Ishwar Pandey and Avesh Khan and they would look to give the team early breakthroughs especially in the first session's play.

"I played here 2-3 years ago. There was not much of bounce then. But now even the side wicket is offering a lot of bounce. The nature of the wicket has changed," said Pandey, who was called up as a back up in early 2014 for India's tour of New Zealand.

"I'm looking forward to bowl on this wicket. I think 350 will be a par total."

Bengal pace attack will be spearheaded by Ashok Dinda and Ishan Porel as an interesting pace battle will be on the cards.

Teams (from):

Bengal: Manoj Tiwary (c), Abhimanyu Easwaran, Abhishek Raman, Sudip Chatterjee, Anustup Majumdar, Shreevats Goswami, Aamir Gani, B Amit, Pradipta Pramanik, Ashok Dinda, Ishan Porel, Koushik Ghosh, Mukesh Kumar, Vivek Singh, Shahba Ahamad and Writtick Chatterjee.

Madhya Pradesh: Naman Ojha (c), Aryaman Birla, Ankit Dane (wk), Rajat Patidar, Shubham Sharma, Yash Dubey, Ankit Sharma, Mihir Hirwani, Avesh Khan, Ishwar Pandey, Kuldeep Sen, Saransh Jain, Venkatesh Iyer, Mohnish Mishra and Gourav Yadav.

Updated Date: Nov 11, 2018 23:34:46 IST

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