Eyes on Kotla ahead of crucial tie
On most occasions and in many ways, Delhi and Tamil Nadu have little in common. When they meet at the Feroz Shah Kotla on Saturday, though, much around them will be similar. This will be the fourth Ranji Trophy group stage game for both sides. Not only are they on equal points, Delhi and Tamil Nadu could also be equally piqued at having come away from one draw with a single point.
Tamil Nadu's opening match against Odisha in Cuttack had the better part of the game washed away due to rain. In their last match, Delhi couldn't get across the line to snatch the first-innings points against an obdurate Baroda at home.
The sole point of difference, though, is that Tamil Nadu have not been beaten this season. Delhi, a full-strength one no less, were defeated by UP in their season-opener in Ghaziabad. The best way for Delhi to put up any gap on the points table between the visitors and themselves is an outright win. Delhi certainly have the bowlers to do it; their most experienced and skillful, Ashish Nehra, however is an uncertain starter, even though he trained with the team on the eve of the match.
Delhi's winter has set in and theoretically, seaming conditions are said to be on offer in the first session of play. The main question, though, will be about which kind of Kotla pitch turns up at the game on Saturday: the familiar 22 yards that are respectfully built over a medieval graveyard or the oft-promised-but-never-seen Gabba-model with bounce and carry?
In the past few seasons, when seeking an advantage for their seamers or getting their ground ready for an international fixture, Delhi have often shifted their Ranji venue to the Roshanara Club north of the city said to have the liveliest of pitches in the city. But no more, they say, because results have not really gone in the home team's favour. Of the nine matches played at Roshanara, for which the DDCA has had to pay the private club a daily fee, Delhi have won merely three. Of the three matches played after that last win in December 2010, Delhi have been beaten by Railways, and have drawn against Mumbai and Haryana. It would appear that Roshanara has now lost its allure. All it remains now is for Kotla to gain some.
Delhi have increased their squad to 15 with the introduction of Vaibhav Raval, who has scored three consecutive centuries for Delhi under-25s. At the time of reporting, M Vijay had not yet been released from Indian team to play for Tamil Nadu.
Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo