Delhi ready for Irani Trophy challenge

Published: Tuesday, September 23, 2008, 16:23 [IST]
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SehwagVadodara: Fifteen years after being humiliated in the 30th edition of the Irani Trophy, Delhi has come back this year to make another bid for the prestigious trophy against mighty Rest of India in the five-day match, beginning at the Reliance Cricket Stadium here from tomorrow.

If the cricket pundits are to be believed, the chances of Virender Sehwag-led Delhi team winning the trophy are 40:60, as Anil Kumble's ROI start favourite with a strong batting line-up and an effective battery of both pace and spin bowlers.

However, the five-day tie promises to be very interesting as it is a virtual selection trial of the veterans as well as the promising youngsters for the Indian Test squad that would take on World Champions Australia at home in a four-match series beginning from October nine at Bangalore.

Even as a star-studded ROI look well-balanced with India's front ranking players, like M S Dhoni, Rahul Dravid, V V S Laxman, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh and skipper Anil Kumble in the squad, Ranji champions Delhi, perhaps for the first time, have a full strength team at their disposal for the crucial match.

As far as batting is concerned, Delhi's biggest asset is their dashing opening pair, Sehwag and southpaw Gautam Gambhir, who successfully led their side to an emphatic nine-wicket victory in the Ranji final against Uttar Pradesh earlier this year.

Sehwag would, however, largely depend on Delhi's seasoned opener Akash Chopra and young Virat Kohli, who missed their double century by 18 and three runs respectively in the just-concluded Mohammad Nissar Trophy match against Pakistan's domestic champions Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited (SNGPL), which the latter won on the basis of their first innings lead.

A confident Sehwag seemed to be more or less happy with his batting line-up. But, his biggest problem would be the lack of back up bowlers for his seamers, Ishant Sharma and Ashish Nehra, on the Reliance wicket which is considered to be a happy hunting ground for batsmen.

Despite the setback in the Mohammad Nissar Trophy, Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya is very much hopeful that his boys will put up their best in the last but most important domestic match ahead of the Team India selection for the forthcoming Test series against Ricky Ponting-led Australia team. Delhi, which miserably lost to ROI by an innings and 122 runs in their last encounter for the prestigious trophy in 1992-93, had last won the cup 18 years ago defeating Lalchand Rajput-led ROI by 309 runs under the captainship of Madan Lal at their home ground in the 1989-90 season.

It had, however, registered its first ever victory in the Irani Trophy match in 1980-81 under the captainship of S Amarnath and had made a total of five appearances in the trophy match so far.

On the other hand, ROI, which had won the trophy 22 times so far since since 1959-60, continue to maintain its winning record for the last nine consecutive years since 1999-2000.

While Mumbai have bagged the trophy 14 times, Karnataka have won four times, Delhi twice and Hyderabad, Tamil Nadu and Harnaya once each.

The cricket fans here, however, seemed to be very much disappointed because of the absence of batting maestro Sachin Tedulkar, who has opted out of the match on injury grounds, and non-inclusion of any of the local Pathan brothers (Irfan and Yusuf) in the ROI squad.

Both the Pathan siblings were accommodated in the India 'A' squad to play in the ongoing tri-series against Australia 'A' and New Zealand 'A' at Chennai.

Members of both the teams have been practicing at the nets for the last couple of days under the watchful eyes of India coach Garry Kisten and national selectors.


ROI: Anil Kumble (cap), M S Dhoni (wk), Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Mohammed Kaif, Wasim Zaffer, Harbhajan Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, R P Singh, Parthiv Patel and Ashok Dinda.

Delhi: Virender Sehwag (cap), Gautam Gambhir, Akash Chopra, Mayank Tehlan, Mithun Manhas, Virat Kohli, Rajat Bhatia, Punit Bisht, Ishant Sharma, Pradeep Sangwan, Ashish Nehra, Chetnya Nanda, Amit Bhandari, Narendra Singh and Gaurav Chhabra.


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