Ishant Sharma’s fitness will be put to test even as selectors will also keep an eye on comeback- man Gautam Gambhir as a strong Delhi side take on a depleted Karnataka in their Ranji Trophy cricket match.
It will also be a homecoming for Gambhir when the two-time IPL-winning Kolkata Knight Riders take field at Eden Gardens.
Viral fever, Chikungunya had forced gangling Ishant out of the three-Test series against New Zealand and he will be keen to make an impression ahead of the series against England.
Former champions Karnataka will wear a depleted look as skipper R Vinay Kumar has joined Lokesh Rahul in the injury list and youngster Karun Nair has been named captain to lead the side for the first time in Ranji Trophy.
It presents Delhi a good chance to consolidate their place atop the standings in Group B.
Vinay suffered the injury in their match against Jharkhand in Greater Noida. He could bowl just 2.3 overs and either left-arm pacer S Arvind or youngster Ronit More is expected to be roped into the playing XI.
Delhi had beaten Assam by an innings and 93 runs in their Ranji opener en route to log seven points with bonus in Vadodara.
They had to settle for one point against Maharashtra conceding first innings lead in a run-glut in Mumbai in the last match.
Left-handed wicketkeeper batsman Rishabh Pant has been in ominous form with his knocks of 308 and 146 to lead the run charts, while Gambhir’s presence on his familiar territory will make the Delhi batsman feel at ‘home’.
Referring to Gambhir’s successful stint with KKR since 2011, former Delhi captain and coach KP Bhaskar said: “It is like a hometown for him… Yes, he has been giving us valuable inputs.”
This will be Ishant’s first match in two months and if he gets into his rhythm he will certainly pose a big threat especially with the new ball on a relaid Eden turf.
Earlier this month, seamers dominated the proceedings grabbing 26 wickets in India’s win in the second Test against New Zealand in an otherwise spin-oriented three-match series as both teams will certainly weigh their pace options.
This will be Karnataka’s second match and they come here on the back of a solid performance against Jharkhand where opener R Samarth slammed a career-best 235.
They have the experienced duo of Stuart Binny and Robin Uthappa who is also part of the KKR family.
“It’s a huge honour for me to be captaining Karnataka. It’s a huge state and a lot of legends have led Karnataka. I want to express myself and do my best,” the 24-year-old told reporters.