Delhi: Gautam Gambhir's final appearance in competitive cricket will add an emotional overtone to an otherwise normal Ranji Trophy group league encounter between a depleted Delhi and Andhra starting from Thursday.
One of the biggest names to ever don the Delhi jersey, Gambhir will be retiring from his spiritual home, the Feroz Shah Kotla, amidst an outpouring of emotion on social media, where he enjoys a sizeable following.
However, Delhi would have ideally liked the veteran left-hander to at least complete the season but having understood that a good IPL deal is a long shot, Gambhir did what any player who has played a bit of international cricket would do – retire with minimum fuss.
While it's a dream for any player to retire in an Indian jersey, Gambhir will be happy that he is calling it quits on his own terms even though his state team is in a spot of bother.
With regular captain Nitish Rana and the talented Himmat Singh away on national duty (with Emerging India squad), Gambhir's experience was much more required at this stage where a couple of bad matches will put Delhi out of knock-out contention.
Gambhir will be the star attraction even as home team coach Mithun Manhas plans to hand three debuts.
One of them is U-23 captain Jonty Sidhu, whose senior team debut has been much anticipated after a string of good shows at the U-19 and U-23 level.
A former U-19 India captain, the lanky left-hander Jonty is also a brilliant fielder and will replace skipper Rana in the playing XI as Dhruv Shorey leads the side.
The other debutant could be left-arm spinner Shivank Vasist while veteran Vaibhav Rawal may come in place of Himmat.
The three players out of the 15 are Sarthak Ranjan, Kunwar Bodhuri, both of whom failed in the last game, along with left-arm spinner Varun Sood.
Karthik has no plans of quitting first class cricket, wants to claim Ranji title for TN
Chennai: Dinesh Karthik has made it clear he has no plans of quitting first class cricket to focus on limited overs, saying he will continue to pursue his dream of claiming the Ranji Trophy title for Tamil Nadu.
Last month, India middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu had announced his retirement from first-class cricket to focus on ODIs and T20Is.
Asked if he thinking in similar lines, Karthik said: "No, I haven't thought about it because I really enjoy playing for Tamil Nadu. I think one of the joys of the sport is playing for the state.
"The minute I think that people see me as a burden playing for Tamil Nadu I will take a step back," he told reporters ahead of the Ranji Trophy Elite Group 'B' match between Tamil Nadu and Kerala beginning on Thursday.
"I will play for Tamil Nadu as long as possible only because the dream of winning that one title for me - the Ranji Trophy. Still not been able to achieve it, so I will keep trying as many years as I can play for Tamil Nadu."
The dashing wicketkeeper-batsman, who enjoyed a good 2018 including his heroics in the Nidahas Trophy final in Sri Lanka, said it was a phenomenal year.
"It has been a phenomenal year. Very happy to be in the place that I am. There's a lot to look forward to in the coming year. Actually, it is interesting times," said Karthik, who was part of the Indian T20 squad which played in Australia recently.
He is part of next year's 50-overs World Cup but Karthik said he was not thinking so far ahead.
"I am not thinking so far ahead. Because as soon as I start thinking about the World Cup and all that there will be more pressure than what is already there.
"There is obviously the Australia series, New Zealand series ... there is a lot of cricket coming up, I need to focus on that ... the best I can do and take it from there," he added.
Karthik, who has been seen in the finisher's role in the national side in recent times, said it was an aspect he was working on.
"Look, I think that's one aspect that I have been trying to work on, trying to finish games. I try to practice in such a way that I put myself in situations where I can practice that and things have been coming out pretty well in those kind of tense situations," he said.
"It is a very important aspect of batting ... trying to finish games off and that's what I am focusing on," he added.
To a question if he was focusing on cementing his place in the national T20 squad, the Tamil Nadu player said his aim was to do well in every match that he plays.
"For me every match is an opportunity to do well, as cliched as it sounds, that's how I have been playing in the last few years. Next is the Ranji Trophy. I need to do well. My endeavour is to help Tamil Nadu qualify.
"The T20s, ODIs and Tests all those will fall in place once I try and keep doing well consistently, it is a confidence sport."
Tamil Nadu have logged only five points from four games so far and Karthik said the team needs to play some special cricket if they have to qualify for the knockouts.
"We need to play some special cricket. I don't think we have played up to potential in the first four games. If we want to qualify we need to do something special from hereon," he said.
Struggling Mumbai to take on Maharashtra in state Derby
Pune: A struggling Mumbai will take on arch-rivals Maharashtra in their Ranji Trophy Elite Group A game beginning on Thursday.
Mumbai go into the must-win game with their qualifying chances for the quarter-final knock out hanging by a thread.
The 41-time domestic champions are yet to register their first win this season, after drawing two games (versus Railways and Karnataka) and suffering a nine-wicket loss to Gujarat after taking the first innings lead.
Mumbai have suffered a huge setback with their skipper and key pacer Dhawal Kulkarni being ruled out of the crucial game after sustaining an ankle niggle.
Their batting has let them down and the line-up that includes experienced campaigners Surya Kumar Yadav and Aditya Tare will need to step up and deliver.
With opener Akhil Herwadkar dropped due to poor form, uncapped U23 player Bhupen Lalwani is expected to open with Jay Bista who too has misfired so far.
A lot will also depend on how crisis man Siddhesh Lad, who has been named the stand-in skipper, perfoms.
Among the bright spots in Mumbai's campaign has been the display of all-rounder Shivam Dubey, who scored a century and another half century against Gujarat and was also among wickets.
Maharashtra, on the other hand, also have a well balanced side with the likes of Ankit Bawane, Ruturaj Gaikwad and others.
The contests between the two state rivals have been enthralling over the years and fans at the MCA Stadium in Gahunje can expect another no-holds-barred clash.
Jaydev Shah to call it a day after game against Karnataka
Saurashtra skipper Jaydev Shah, son of former BCCI secretary Niranjan, is set to retire soon from all forms of cricket, the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) announced Wednesday.
The 35-year-old batsman will hang up his boots after the Ranji Trophy game against Karnataka that begins on Thursday, a media release from SCA said.
"Jaydev Shah announces his retirement from all formats of cricket. The Ranji Trophy match between Saurashtra and Karnataka, to be played at the Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium from 6 December onwards, shall be his last match," the release said.
Shah has played 119 first class matches and scored 5,253 runs with ten hundreds to his name.
He also led India A on the tour to Israel in 2008.
Shah also captained Saurashtra team in 110 games, which is a domestic record. Under his captaincy, Saurashtra became runners up in the Ranji Trophy in 2012-13 and 2015-16 and also made it to the semi-finals twice.
The team also won the Vijay Hazare One-Day tournament in 2007-08 under his captaincy, besides capturing the Ramakant Desai Zonal One Day Tournament.