Delhi face Haryana as Ranji trophy kicks off on Thursday
New Delhi: With their coach Manoj Prabhakar sacked at the eleventh hour, Delhi will have to set their house in order as they take on Haryana in the opening match of the Ranji Trophy Super League on Thursday.
Two days before the start of the new Ranji season, Prabhakar was shown the door because of his critical comments against the players and selectors, and it will be an uphill task for his assistant, Sanjeev Sharma, to fill in his shoes and inspire the team.
Delhi have the firepower to match the best in business, but currently they are seen as a divided house, and it will take a lot of leadership skills from captain Mithun Manhas to walk out at the Roshanara Club Ground with confidence.
The onus would also be on the experienced lot of Shikhar Dhawan and Rajat Bhatia to not only make their contribution but also inspire youngsters such as Unmukt Chand, who fared well as under-19 captain in the tri-series against West Indies and Sri Lanka last month, and Mohit Sharma.
In bowling, the 2007 winners will mostly depend on the experience of Pradeep Sangwan and the exuberance of Vikas Mishra.
Led by India leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who will hope to mend his way back to the national squad with some good performance here, Haryana will depend on the experience of the likes of Sachin Rana, Joginder Sharma and Sunny Singh among others.
While Delhi will be locked in a battle with Haryana, Railways will be up against Mumbai, who holds the record of winning the title 39 times, at Karnail Singh Stadium here.
Two-time winner, Railways, skippered by former India player Sanjay Bangar, have some good players in Faiz Fazal and Jai Prakash Yadav, who has played 12 ODIs for India.
Besides, former India player Murali Kartik, who has played for Somerset, Kolkata Knight Riders, Middlesex and Lancashire, will look to use all his experience to put brakes on the Mumbai batters.
Mumbai, on the other hand, will be bolstered by the return of India players Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, who has been in red-hot form in the recent one-day internationals against England at home.
Both Sharma and Rahane will look to impress the selectors with some good performance in the domestic circuit and, along with India Test opener and Mumbai skipper Wasim Jaffer, will look to give Mumbai a good start.
Among bowlers, the onus would be on out-of-favour India player Ramesh Powar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Aavishkar Salvi and Murtuza Hussain, who replaced pace injured spearhead Ajit Agarkar, to deliver the goods.
Besides, Iqbal Abdulla and Ankeet Chavan, too, are likely to raise the bar when needed.
In other matches, Orissa will take on Saurashtra at Barabati Stadium in Cuttack in Group A, while Rajasthan will clash with Karnataka at the Field Club Ground in Udaipur.
For Karnataka, all eyes will be on pacers Abhimanyu Mithun and Sreenath Aravind and batsmen Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey.
In another Group A match, India offspinner Harbhajan Singh, who was dropped for the first Test against West Indies at home, will lead Punjab when they face Uttar Pradesh at the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium in Mohali.
India batsman Suresh Raina, who was left out of the Test team, Piyush Chawla, RP Singh and Mohammad Kaif will be the star attraction for UP and they would look to fight their way back with a good domestic performance.
In Group B, Bengal will be up against Gujarat at Eden Gardens in Kolkata, while Tamil Nadu, led by India pacer Lakshmipathy Balaji, will fight it out with Baroda at the MA Chidambaram Stadium at Chepauk.
For Tamil Nadu, India players -- Dinesh Karthik, Abhinav Mukund and Murali Vijay -- will look to perform and claim a berth in the national squad.