India pace bowler Ishant Sharma and experienced all-rounder Rajat Bhatia were the notable exclusions when the selectors announced the Delhi squad for the season opener Ranji Trophy match against Rajasthan, which will be held at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur from October 1.
Sharma has been excluded after he could not be reached on the telephone by the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) chief selector Vinay Lamba. Sharma is currently in Bangalore as part of the Indian team’s camp ahead of the South Africa series, but he is not in either the T20I or ODI team.
Lamba said that Ishant was a ‘valuable player’ but in the light of uncertainty about his availability, they had to leave India’s strike bowler out of the Ranji Trophy side.
“Frankly, Ishant is an automatic selection when it comes to the Delhi team. He is doing really well for India and if he wants to play, definitely he is our first choice bowler against Rajasthan. But on the other hand, I was trying to call him and even left a message on his phone to know his availability for Delhi, but he never responded so we decided to leave him out of the squad,” Lamba said.
Bhatia, however, was not included in the side for a different reason. Skipper Gautam Gambhir was keen to start the season with a relatively young squad and Bhatia didn’t fit into the scheme of things. “In the meeting, Gambhir was keen on picking a young team and wanted to begin a phase of transition for the Delhi team. In that context Bhatia didn’t find a place. The selectors were keen but then had to go with what the captain wanted. Moreover, Gambhir is keen on playing with five frontline bowlers,” Lamba said.
However, Bhatia may still get a look in later in the season, according to source who attended the meeting. “Gambhir wants to start with a young team but he still values the experience of Bhatia and if Delhi needs his services he will be recalled,” the source said.
The selectors also put left-arm spinner Pawan Negi on stand-by.
“When it comes to Negi, we don’t consider him a long format player and he hasn’t been playing for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy for the last few years. We believe Manan Sharma has really performed well last year and we are going to persist with him. But in limited overs format, Negi remains our main player,” he said. When asked about Ashish Nehra, Lamba said, “I called up Ashish and he straightaway refused to play four-day games for Delhi.”
Owing to Ishant’s busy routine at Bangalore with Team India, Delhi have retained their pacers in Sumit Narwal, Parwinder Awana and Pradeep Sangwan.
Delhi’s young brigade
Pulkit Narang (Age 21, offie): A surprise pick. Preferred over Shivam Sharma. Is an offie in the traditional mould — loops the ball and has decent control. Has played one game for Delhi U-23.
Mohit Ahlawat (23, wk-batsman): A heavy run-scorer in the DDCA League and Hot Weather tournaments. Solid while playing spin. Has a chance to cement the spot as the selectors have ignored Puneet Bisht and Rahul Yadav.
Sarang Rawat (19, pacer): A consistent performer for Delhi in the junior age-groups. 2013-14 was a dream season as he picked 28 wickets in the Cooch Behar Trophy.
Nitish Rana (19, batsman): Will have to provide stability in the middle-order post Mithun Minhas and in the absence of Rajat Bhatia. Has represented Delhi in the shorter formats. Scored 392 runs, including two tons, in the CK Nayudu Trophy last season.
With inputs from Sahil Malhotra