Former Ranji champion Baroda is a tough opponent at home, even without captain Irfan Pathan to hold the batting together and spearhead the attack with swing bowling. Connor Williams is in charge for the Ranji Trophy 2009 Super League opener against Delhi.
His experience at the Motibaug stadium, where the wicket is generally lively even on day four, will come in handy in a four-day game where patience at the crease is a valuable tool in innings building.
Jacob Martin and Satyajit Parab are two experienced hands in the Baroda line-up, familiar with the track and able to vary their batting approach as per the situation. The Delhi bowlers also have Yusuf Pathan’s flashing blade to deal with, an intimidating batsman yet to discover virtue in patience.
Irfan’s absence will hamper the bowling, though coach Paras Mhambrey is confident of U-22 players Ajitesh Argal and Swapnil Singh extending their form in the senior ranks.
Baroda has always played attacking cricket, a quality Mhambrey points out reflects the strength in the side. “The approach has always been to play positive cricket. We are banking on youngsters in the side to come through, like Argal and Swapnil, complementing the experience of players like Martin and Yusuf.”
For Delhi, coach Vijay Dahiya, working on getting the team combination right for the season opener, the latest worry is an ankle injury to first-choice spinner Chetanya Nanda.
Nanda twisted his ankle on Monday while bowling at the nets facility adjacent to the ground. Mithun Manhas, middle-order batsman and one-time Delhi captain, is carrying a hamstring injury.
Dahiya expects the spinner to play the Super League opener starting Tuesday, while it has been left to Manhas to decide his state of fitness. The visitors have competent fast bowlers to take advantage of the sporting Motibaug wicket in Parwinder Awana, Pradeep Sangwan, Sumit Narwal and young Pawan Suyal.
Ishant Sharma’s non-availability due to national duty does not hinder Delhi’s collective strength, though batsmen have to improve upon last seasons Ranji performance and cover up for the absence of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kolhi.
The responsibility rests on the shoulders of captain Aakash Chopra, vice-captain Shikhar Dhawan and utility player Rajat Bhatia to show the way.
The teams (from): Delhi: Aakash Chopra (capt), Shikhar Dhawan, Rajat Bhatia, Yogesh Nagar, Mithun Manhas, Mayank Tehlan, Gaurav Chhabria, Punit Bisht (wk), Chetanya Nanda, Parwinder Awana, Sumit Narwal, Pradeep Sangwan, Pawan Suyal, Aditya Jain, Darshan Kajania. Coach: Vijay Dahiya.
Baroda: Connor Williams (capt), Satyajit Parab, Jacob Martin, Azhar Bilakhia, Yusuf Pathan, Pinal Shah (wk), Rajesh Pawar, Ajitesh Argal, Swapnil Singh, Salim Veragi, Rakesh Solanki, Sankalp Vohra, Ketan Panchal, Murtuza Vahora, Shatrunjay Gaekwad. Coach: Paras Mhambrey. Umpires: Sameer Dandekar. Vishwas Narulkar.
Match referee: Sunil Chaturvedi.