Delhi crashed to a humiliating nine-wicket loss to Puducherry in the Ranji Trophy season opener that ended on Monday at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in the Capital. The result marked a new low in the team’s history and led to the removal of Yash Dhull as skipper. He has been replaced by Himmat Singh for the remainder of the season.
“The selectors decided to relieve Dhull of the pressure as they want him to focus on his batting. They felt his batting was also getting affected by the captaincy. The loss to Puducherry is a big disappointment for Delhi. We are looking to bounce back under the new captain and have full faith in him and the team,” said Rajan Manchanda, the convenor of the selection committee and the joint secretary of Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA).
Puducherry, who came into the first-class roster only in the 2018-19 season, had beaten only Goa and Kerala in the Elite division of the competition prior to this win. Those two wins came last season.
However, this time they managed to scalp former Ranji champions.
Puducherry took the early initiative, bowling out Delhi for just 148 in 62.5 overs in first innings with right-arm pace bowler Gourav Yadav picking 7/49 (match haul of 10/98).
Yadav, who used to represent Madhya Pradesh (MP) till last season before shifting to Puducherry this season following differences with MP coach Chandrakant Pandit, rattled Delhi batting along with fellow medium-pacer Abin Mathew (2/28) on a curtailed first day as the home team went to stumps at 40/4 after only 19 overs of play was possible.
“The pitch was helpful for pace bowling and there was movement. We got them under pressure early. We knew this was a 240 to 250-run pitch and we had restricted them to below-par total (148) on Day Two,” said Yadav to Patriot.
Puducherry responded with 244. Paras Ratnaparkhe top-scored with 60 while spinner Hrithik Shokeen was the top wicket-taker for Delhi, returning with 4/46.
Delhi performed below-par with the bat again in the second innings, getting bowled out for 145 in 46.4 overs after being 70/1 at one point. Abin Mathew was the wrecker-in-chief, picking 5/39. Yadav took three wickets to complete a 10-wicket haul and earn man-of-the-match award.
Puducherry chased the 50-run target, losing just one wicket.
A disappointed Navdeep Saini (2/54), who will leave the Delhi squad and join India A for the series against England Lions later this month, said, “As bowlers, we did as best as we could. The batting failed. They couldn’t put up a decent score.”
Delhi’s problems had begun even before the match. The selectors named an unusually large 26-member squad, which included six specialist opening batsmen.
However, when the day came, the team management picked wicket-keeper and middle-order batsman Lakshay Thareja to open with skipper Dhull.
Asked about the poor performance, Delhi coach Devang Gandhi told media, “When they bowled in the first innings, the conditions were very good. It was a fresh pitch. There was a lot of help on the first day. The conditions were tough for our batsmen.”
He, however, blamed the performance in second innings on Day 3 when he believed “there should have been more application from the batsmen”.
Gandhi did not rule out possibility of changes in batting order for the next match against Jammu and Kashmir, which takes place next week in Jammu.
The team will miss India veteran Ishant Sharma, who is unavailable for away matches. Sharma took 1/58 in the match against Puducherry.