Mohammed Shami’s guile coupled with Ashok Dinda’s consistency will be countered by Gautam Gambhir’s experience and Rishabh Pant’s exuberance when Bengal square off with Delhi in a Ranji Trophy semi-final.
The match can be safely termed a fight between one of the most potent domestic new ball attacks in the country and a batting line-up that has players who can win matches on their own on a given day.
An encouraging piece of statistic for Bengal is that they have never ever conceded a first-innings lead against Delhi from 2009-10 season. And not to forget the bitter sweet relation between Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary and Gambhir, who have had their share of run-ins in the past.
India’s craftiest red ball bowler Shami will get some serious match time against Gambhir, who has been there and done that for Delhi on numerous occasions.
At 36 and with no realistic chance of playing for India again, Gambhir remains an intense cricketer, who has notched up 505 runs this season so far.
Dinda, a domestic workhorse, can bowl long spells and hit the same length over after over while young Delhi captain Pant (261 in 5 games), who has slightly fallen off the selectors’ radar, will be trying to prove a point with his cavalier batting approach.
Young guns Nitish Rana (515 runs), Dhruv Shorey (374 in 7 games), Himmat Singh (215 in 3 games)and Kunal Chandela (202 in 2 games) — a University cricket product — have all shown promise.
In the bowling, left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra (31 wickets) has made a good comeback in first-class while Navdeep Saini’s (22 wickets) exploits with new and old ball is now well-known in domestic circuit.
For Bengal, the presence of another Test regular Wriddhiman Saha, who is a domestic giant, makes it for an exciting contest despite the absence of regular skipper cum pace spearhead Ishant Sharma from the opposition line-up.
On a Maharashtra CA Stadium track, which has traditionally been a batting belter, both teams would like to pile on the runs and put the pressure on the opposition.
While Bengal won their quarter-final by batting Gujarat out of the contest, Delhi rode on a fine batting performance from Gambhir as they chased down a 200-plus target with ease.
Skipper Tiwary will have plenty of problems while selecting his batting line-up.
Abhimanyu Easwaran (547 runs) and Avishek Raman (587 runs) are set openers while the experienced Sudeep Chatterjee, who is fit to play the semi-final, is expected to be back at No 3.
His replacement Writtick Chatterjee has done his case no harm with a century and a double hundred in the last two games, but it will be surprising if Tiwary keeps Writtick in the playing XI.
“I will only take a call after today evening’s team meeting,” Tiwary told PTI after practice session.
Similarly, Wriddhiman’s presence means that Shreevats Goswami may have to make way unless Anushtup Majumdar (526 runs), who has made a fabulous comeback, is benched.
“Experience is never up for sale. We are happy that players of Shami and Wriddhi’s calibre are available for such a crucial match,” the skipper said.
Tiwary, who has been a part of two losing finals (2005- 06, 06-07) is keen to set the record straight this time.
“What I loved this year about our team is the growth of our players. They have gone that extra yard, made those sacrifices required and here we are. Each and everyone has strived hard for us to reach this stage,” said the skipper.
Bengal: Manoj Tiwary (captain), Abhimanyu Easwaran, Avishek Raman, Sudeep Chatterjee, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Anushtup Majumdar, Shreevats Goswami, B Amit, Ashok Dinda, Mohammed Shami, Aamir Gani, Writtick Chatterjee, Pradipta Pramanik, Mukesh Kumar and Kanishk Seth.
Delhi: Rishabh Pant (captain), Kunal Chandela, Gautam Gambhir, Dhruv Shorey, Himmat Singh, Nitish Rana, Vikas Tokas, Kulwant Khejroliya, Navdeep Saini, Vikas Mishra, Aakash Sudan, Unmukt Chand, Manan Sharma, Shivam Sharma, Milind Kumar.
Match starts: 11:30 pm.