Controversy over the pitch. Tick. Selection issues. Tick. Background drama. Tick. A bleak scenario. Tick. It’s bedlam!

First-class cricket finally arrives at the Ferozeshah Kotla Stadium, but joy is conspicuous by its absence here. When Delhi begins its final Ranji Trophy group A match against Karnataka on Monday, tension and desperation are expected to reign at the venue.

Even seven points from this match may not be enough for the host. Various theories abound to explain Delhi’s predicament but coach Sanjeev Sharma, with much justification, points his finger at his side’s match against Mumbai. “That result hurt us more than the defeat against Punjab (after bowling the latter out for 74 in the first innings).”

Delhi was set to gain a first-innings lead at Mumbai’s expense but could only equal Mumbai’s 324 after being placed 309 for six. Such failure to give advantage tangible form has characterised Gautam Gambhir’s side this season.

Spinner-friendly track

Speculation claims that a spinner-friendly track will be in place for this decisive encounter; the presence of the BCCI pitches and grounds committee chairman Daljit Singh, though, should preclude any possibilities of a farce. Not to suggest that deriving home advantage would amount to treachery.

Sanjeev confirmed that spinners Varun Sood and Manan Sharma will feature in the playing eleven but it’s the inclusion of Javed Khan that has raised a few eyebrows.

After the controversy over Navdeep Saini’s selection, another rookie medium-pacer finds a place in the squad. Parvinder Awana misses out due to injury.

However, despite Delhi’s fervent attempts, there remains a serious doubt over the team’s ability to gather the desired result. For it faces a side that sits atop group A after winning its last four matches. Karnataka coach J. Arunkumar is certainly unfazed by the myriad challenges the pitch may pose.

“It seems anybody will turn the ball here (laughs). We have three medium-pacers and as many spinners in our side. Our bowlers have bowled really well this season.”

Not to forget that Karnataka has already qualified for the quarterfinals. The success, though, won’t breed complacency, feels Arunkumar. “We want to extend our winning streak.”

Expect drama over the next four days.

The teams (from): Delhi:   Gautam Gambhir (captain), Virender Sehwag, Unmukt Chand, Mithun Manhas, Rajat Bhatia, Vaibhav Rawal, Milind Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Sumit Narwal, Varun Sood, Rahul Yadav, Mohit Sharma, Navdeep Saini, Manan Sharma and Javed Khan.

Karnataka: Vinay Kumar (captain), Mayank Agarwal, K.L. Rahul, Ganesh Satish, Manish Pandey, C.M. Gautam, Stuart Binny, Karun Nair, A. Mithun, H.S. Sharath, Ronit More, Abrar Kazi, R. Samarth, Shreyas Gopal and Amit Verma.

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