New Delhi: Having faced the ingominy of back to-back defeats, the Sanjay Bangar-led Railways face an onerous task of trying to stay afloat in Elite Grup as they meet defending champions Rajasthan in a crucial Ranji Trophy encounter at Karnail Singh Stadium on Thursday.
For Railways who are already looking the team that will be `Whipping Boys` for others in the group, the absence of veteran spinner Murali Kartik will certainly affect their chances against a strong Rajasthan batting line-up that consists of domestic giants like Aakash Chopra, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Rashmi Ranjan Parida.
Chopra for one is only 23 runs short of completing 10,000 runs in first-class cricket.
Kartik is set to leave for Australia to attend a wedding and won`t be available for the upcoming match as well as the match after that.
Although it has been learnt that the leave was planned well in advance even before the tournament started, Kartik`s presence would have meant a lot for a team struggling to beat the drop.
Skipper Bangar had indicated about some changes and accordingly Faiz Fazal has been dropped from the squad and opener V Cheluvaraj has been inducted. Dhiren Salvi is the other player dropped from the squad as Karan Sharma has been drafted in. Left-arm spinner Avinash Yadav has been included in place of Kartik.
The strip that will be used for this match may have a bit of bounce after Railways were in a mess preparing a rank turner against Karnataka in their las game. This might see Anureet Singh coming in the XI.
It will also be interesting to see whether Rajasthan include Deepak Chahar who has conceded 531 runs in three first-class matches getting only one wicket. Tall left-armer Aniket Chaudhary in that case will in all likelihood share the new ball with seasoned campaigner Pankaj Singh who is just one victim short of 300 wickets in first-class.