ICL: Indian Cricket League


High stakes in star-filled contest

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The big fight is on. The contenders are in their corners and ready to get on with the tussle. Delhi, the defending Ranji Trophy champions, boast a formidable batting line-up but the Rest of India’s vault is rich in experience. Ishant Sharma and Zaheer Khan share the new ball for India but they’ll be speeding in for opposite teams. Virender Sehwag will use his street-smartness to give Delhi the edge while Rest of India captain Anil Kumble will hope to silence critics who have started to question his leadership. The Irani Trophy might appear to be a dress rehearsal for the series against Australia next month but, with various mini-battles, it has the portents of being the main draw.

The majority of those involved have been playing regularly so rustiness, since the match is the curtain raiser to the 2008-09 domestic season, won’t be a problem and both teams appear balanced.

Rest of India’s two major concerns are their opening pair of Wasim Jaffer and Parthiv Patel, and the form of their leading batsmen - Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. The responsibility on them has increased after the withdrawal of Sachin Tendulkar. Dravid’s form, though, has been scratchy - 148 in three Tests in Sri Lanka - and he managed only four runs in two games for the Karnataka State Cricket Association in the Buchi Babu Invitational tournament.

Kumble, however, was not worried and said he had faith in his senior batsmen who had played a crucial role in every series victory for India both home and away in the last decade.

“When we look around in the dressing room there is no pressure,” Kumble said. “These batsmen have handled pressure wonderfully. It is only one bad series [Sri Lanka] and it is over now. They will be taking confidence from their performance against the Australians. The results India have produced in the last 10-12 years is because of these individuals.”

A large part of Dravid and Laxman’s responsibility will be to negotiate Delhi’s new-ball pair of Ashish Nehra and Ishant Sharma. In the Mohammad Nissar Trophy last week, Nehra proved he could still be a force with a tight line and the moving ball. However, Nehra will be up against a batting line-up full of internationals in the Irani Trophy and will hope to raise his game accordingly. His task will be eased by the presence of Ishant, who has repeatedly proved he can impose himself on batsmen not only on helpful pitches but also on barren tracks. Ishant may have been off colour during the Nissar Trophy but, like in Sri Lanka, he can turn a game with bounce and movement at a hostile pace.

The back-up bowlers for Ishant and Nehra, however, aren’t incisive. Left-arm medium-pacer Pradeep Sangwan, Delhi’s highest wicket-taker last season, is likely to miss out and Sehwag will probably be the second spinner after Chetanya Nanda, the legspinner. Nanda isn’t a big turner of the ball and Sehwag may be inclined to bat first at the IPCL stadium. The pitch is usually full of runs but the curator was pressed for time because the track was covered with water due to rains last week. The top surface, however, is dry and likely to aid spin.

The Rest of India’s line-up is more or less certain. Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel and RP Singh form the pace attack and the spin department has Kumble and Harbhajan Singh. There is competition for the sixth batting spot with Mohammad Kaif and S Badrinath vying for selection.

The contest against Australia is hotting up, especially after the visitors arrived on Monday, and Kumble and coach Gary Kirsten said the Irani Trophy was important preparation for the series. “We are looking for some decent performances here and are using this game as an important component in our preparation for the Australian series”, Kirsten said.

Teams

Rest of India (likely): 1 Wasim Jaffer, 2 Parthiv Patel, 3 Rahul Dravid, 4 VVS Laxman, 5 Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), 6 Mohammad Kaif/S Badrinath, 7 Harbhajan Singh, 8 Zaheer Khan, 9 Anil Kumble (capt), 10 RP Singh, 11 Munaf Patel.

Delhi likely (likely): 1 Virender Sehwag (capt), 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Aakash Chopra, 4 Virat Kohli, 5 Shikar Dhawan, 6 Mithun Manhas, 7 Rajat Bhatia, 8 Puneet Bisht (wk), 9 Chetanya Nanda, 10 Ashish Nehra, 11 Ishant Sharma.

Source:Cricket News

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 and is filed under General, Cricket.

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