Ghaziabad: The presence of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma in the Delhi squad has added extra spice to their opening Ranji Trophy match against Uttar Pradesh, starting on Friday in Ghaziabad.
While Sehwag was named the captain of the squad, Gambhir will be his deputy. Both of them, along with Kohli, didn't play any of the matches in Delhi's campaign last season. In fact, Sehwag has played just eight Ranji matches since 2002-03; Gambhir has turned out for Delhi just once since he captained them to the Ranji title in January 2008; Kohli last showed up for Delhi in a Ranji Trophy match in December 2010; and Ishant 11 months earlier.
The pressure had been growing on Sehwag and Gambhir, who haven't been in the best of form for the last few years, to either perform or make way for the youngsters. Sehwag's last Test century came 30 innings ago, in November 2010, but outside the subcontinent that date extends back to January 2008. Gambhir hasn’t scored one for 40 innings dating back to January 2010 against Bangladesh.
The presence of these players will not only give Delhi's campaign a head start this season, but also provide them valuable match practice before the selectors sit on Monday to name India's squad for the first Test against England starting in Ahmedabad from November 15. While Kohli is a certainty for the squad, Ishant will be out to impress the selectors. Young Unmukt Chand will also want to replicate his success in other forms to this version of the game.
For UP, all eyes will be on Praveen Kumar who expressed his surprise for his omission from the Irani Trophy squad for the Rest of India despite being fully recovered from the injury he suffered some time back. The medium-pacer last played for India in a Twenty20 match in South Africa in March this year. It will also be a chance for veteran batsman Mohammad Kaif and forgotten pace bowler Sudeep Tyagi to once again stake their claims. Suresh Raina, who led India A in their three-day game against the visiting English in Mumbai, is expected to join the team either late on Thursday or early Friday.
Uttar Pradesh: Suresh Raina (capt), Eklavya Dwivedi, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Arish Alam, Amir Khan (wk), Amit Singh, Piyush Chawla, Mukul Dagar, Mohammad Kaif, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Ali Murtaza, Parvinder Singh, Tanmay Srivastava, Sudeep Tyagi.
Delhi: Virender Sehwag (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Mithun Manhas, Unmukt Chand, Puneet Bisht (wk), Sumit Narwal, Vikas Mishra, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma, Parwinder Awana, Pradeep Sangwan, Yogesh Nagar, Milind Kumar, Manoj Chauhan, Manan Sharma.