With both Punjab and Delhi having won their first match in the Vijay Hazare Trophy this season,it is hard to predict which side has the advantage when the two sides face off at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Wednesday. From a psychological point of view,Punjab have the edge having defeated Delhi in the previous edition of the Vijay Hazare North Zone qualifier at Mohali. But at the same time,the advantage of playing at home and energised by the inclusion of youngsters,would be an advantage for Delhi. While each team has a win,they have had to fight hard in their one game so far. Delhi dug in to post 246 after losing momentum early in their innings against J&K,while Punjab,chasing a target of 244,slipped at the mid-way mark before recovering against Haryana.
Talking to Sportline after Delhi ended their practice session,skipper Rajat Bhatia sounded confident of his team chances against Punjab. Bhatia said that Delhis win against J&K also provided plenty of lessons and the team is looking forward to minimise the mistakes in the next match. I am confident for the fact that we have started our campaign with a win and secondly for playing competitive cricket. Although we had no idea that the match would take such a turn at the start but thankfully,we recovered and won with a bonus point. Everyone has performed the roles well and I am hoping that our form continues in every match, said Bhatia.
Unlike Delhis previous outing,the skipper along with his team was permitted to have a glimpse of the pitch,which would lend Bhatia a clear idea of the team combination he wants against Punjab. On the other hand,Punjab is relying more on all-rounders that could also provide strength in the lower middle order. The visitors have a strong bowling attack with their skipper Harbhajan Singh along with Manpreet Gony spearheading the challenge. Delhi,on the other hand have picked rookie spinners in Varun Sood and Manan Sharma who might lack the experience when playing a competitive side.
Bhatia though disagrees with that assessment. Its not like that anymore. Both the youngsters have been performing outstandingly for their U-22 team and have been the top performers in India. Varun has bowled his full quota against J&K and I think he bowled well according to the expectations. I would say youngsters coming in the team is a healthy sign for Delhi cricket and I can see a good team shaping up. When it comes to picking the right eleven,that we usually decide before the match, Bhatia explained.
Punjab have a deep batting line up with all-rounders like Amitoze Singh and Bipul Sharma manning the no.6 & 7 spot,while Delhi may not gain attention on that front,but experience in the form of Mithun Manhas,Rajat Bhatia,Shikhar Dhawan might give jitters to the Punjab attack.
He also laid emphasis on fielding more than the batting and bowling. Bhatia said that fielding makes a lot of difference in pressure games and some runs saved always puts the other side in a spot. It is one of the toughest matches in the qualifiers. Both Punjab and Delhi are good on bowling and batting but fielding needs to be tightened as if you manage to save some runs,it makes a huge difference. We have many young players and that will only help, he said.