As the winter in Delhi begins to bite, its Ranji Trophy team has decided it must do the same - with a bullet. With only two matches left and 11 miserable points from six matches, Delhi will attempt to bring all their powers of purpose down on Maharashtra from Saturday at the Roshanara Club in north Delhi. Those powers begin with the fortuitous occurrence of a home ground going into preparation lockdown for an international game against Pakistan. It is why Delhi must move groundstaff, supersopper, catering unit and everything else it needs to play yet another all-or-nothing match on the fastest wicket in the neighbourhood with the promise of a four-man pace attack and a 9:15 start time known usually for freezing fingers in Delhi's Decembers.
Even though the Kotla ODI between India and Pakistan is more than three weeks away, the logistical nightmare of moving from the Kotla to the private Roshanara Club, around 8 km away, will have to be undergone. The grumbling will be kept to the minimum if the move ends up being to Delhi's eventual advantage, even though Ashish Nehra, their most experienced of quick men, is not on the team roster and Parvinder Awana, their quickest and most successful, finds himself in the Indian dressing room.
Instead, said coach Vijay Dahiya, medium-pacer Vikas Tokas had been called into the 15. If he does indeed turn up in the XI, Tokas will make his debut for Delhi after having played two Ranji matches for Railways in 2010-11. He completes the quartet of Delhi quicks being promised to stomp all over the Roshanara Club alongside Pawan Suyal, Pradeep Sangwan and Sumit Narwal. Delhi may be tempted to play five bowlers, including left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra, according to Dahiya, given that they are trying to snatch two outright wins and sneak their way into the knock-outs.
Against them will be a batting line-up that has rattled up totals of 764, 315, 333 and 540 and has six centuries, including a triple, from their batsmen in five matches. Yet, Maharashtra do not have a single outright win. Against Tamil Nadu, they were all out for 88 in their second innings in Chennai and beaten by 104 runs. Eight points and many tall totals have come from four draws, from first-innings leads against Vidarbha and Haryana. They may have three group games still left as compared to Delhi's two, but at the tail-end of the Ranji Trophy, it is only strong and desperate opposition that lies in wait. First Delhi on what the day before the game looked like a green top, and then Baroda and Karnataka. In Group B, given Haryana's unpredictability, Maharashtra must do all they can to ensure they do not end up hitting the bottom of the points table.