With two points from four matches, staring at relegation from a nervy proximity, Delhi will face Andhra at home from Tuesday in a Group B Ranji Trophy match. The hosts come into the game on the back of a humiliating innings-and-214-run defeat to Saurashtra, their second loss of the season, apart from two draws in which they conceded the first-innings lead. The Saurashtra defeat has already claimed the Delhi selectors’ scalp.
Andhra, on the other hand, bounced back nicely after the loss to Maharashtra in the third round, beating Hyderabad by 154 runs for their second win of the season. A win against Delhi will propel them to 18 points.
The hosts, placed seventh in the eight-team Group B, couldn’t have walked into the contest against fourth-placed Andhra in a more vulnerable state. It only took hours following Delhi’s defeat to Saurashtra for the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) to sack their senior men’s team selection committee. Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) president Rohan Jaitley called out the ‘scant commitment’ of the selectors in a letter to the association’s Apex Council and the CAC.
The Delhi team and think tank had already had several questions thrown at them before their fourth match of the season. Day one’s play against Saurashtra only invited more. Under-19 World Cup winning skipper Yash Dhull, who was given the Delhi captaincy ahead of the season, has been on the hot seat for his questionable tactical nous. As has been coach Abhay Sharma, who was blamed by the selectors for promoting debutant Ayush Badoni, primarily a middle-order batsman, as opener against a strong Saurashtra bowling attack. Meanwhile, Anuj Rawat, regular opener for the first three games, has been relegated to the U-25 team.
While Dhruv Shorey has amassed 602 runs, more than any other batsman this season, it accounts for more than 28 percent of Delhi’s overall runs this season, a sizable chunk. The rest of the batting line-up has been largely inconsistent.
Delhi’s problems with the ball started with a barrage of injuries. First choice pacers, Ishant Sharma, Navdeep Saini, Simarjeet Singh, Harshit Rana and Mayank Yadav are all out of action. Delhi’s “inexperienced bowling attack”, in the words of Shorey, have only been able to take 39 wickets in four games with just one instance of bowling out a team.
Andhra, on the other hand, have picked up 71 of 80 possible wickets, having played against three opponents Delhi have also faced. KV Sasikanth has been the go to bowler for Hanuma Vihari with 23 wickets, while 19-year-old Kaki Nitish Kumar Reddy(17) has also been impressive.
With the bat, Ricky Bhui looked in fine fettle against Hyderabad, scoring his first century of the season and will look to continue his run against a rusty bowling attack.
Colder days ahead
The temperature inside the DDCA premises may have been hot given the turmoil of the last week but the mercury in the national capital has fallen even below what it was the last time Delhi played at home, against Tamil Nadu.
The Tamil Nadu players had to wrap their heads with monkey caps as they encountered a minimum of 5.6 degrees celsius. Monday saw a fifth day in a row when the temperature fell to 4 degrees, and the forecast isn’t expected to change dramatically over the course of the week.
Winning the toss and putting Delhi in to bat had helped Tamil Nadu gain control of that match on day one. The toss should play a crucial role once again.