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Gautam Gambhir makes way for Ishant Sharma as Delhi skipper; youngsters in middle order

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 23-09-2017 vishal menon

India fast bowler Ishant Sharma was appointed captain of Delhi's Ranji Trophy squad for the upcoming season, the selection committee headed by Atul Wassan informed on Friday. Ishant's elevation comes after Gautam Gambhir offered to step down as captain so that he can focus on his batting and give a youngster a shot at captaincy, a source close to the 36-year-old told The Indian Express.

Gambhir, Delhi's senior-most player, has had a torrid season as the Delhi captain last year when his team failed to qualify for the Ranji Trophy knock-outs. Not just that, he was also reprimanded and handed a suspended sentence of four games after his altercation with coach KP Bhaskar. A fractitious dressing-room, an injured bowling line-up and a misfiring bunch of batsmen all proved to be yet another underwhelming season for Delhi. While Bhaskar was retained as coach, it was inevitable that Gambhir would have had to make his way as the duo apparently did not see eye-to-eye. But Wassan insisted the duo have made peace and have moved on. "Whatever happened between them should not have happened. Having said that, it's a thing of the past. The two will work together for the betterment of the Delhi team," Wassan said.

Ahead of the upcoming season, the most pressing concern for Delhi would be Ishant's lack of experience in captaincy. Wassan though is not perturbed by it. "I think captaincy is highly over-rated when it comes to cricket. We decided to appoint Ishant as the captain, as we felt he had the requisite experience to take this team forward. It's true that he has no prior experience of leading a side, but I'm sure he will get ample help from the likes of Gambhir and coach KP Bhaskar," he reckoned.

Gambhir, freed from the burden of captaincy along with Unmukt Chand, will continue to be Delhi's openers. The middle-order holds a distinctly fresh look with the influx of Himmat Singh and Kunal Chandela — who scored a stunning double hundred in the Vizzy Trophy. Himmat, a dashing middle-order batsmen, has been a regular in the junior circuit for sometime now. "We wanted to include him (Himmat) in the U-23 squad, but seeing the kind of form that he was in, we felt the time was right to blood him in the senior squad," Wassan explained.

Ishant's elevation comes after Gautam Gambhir offered to step down as captain so that he can focus on his batting. (Source: File) © Provided by Indian Express Ishant's elevation comes after Gautam Gambhir offered to step down as captain so that he can focus on his batting. (Source: File)

Khejroliya added

Delhi's fast bowling too have been bolstered with the addition of seamer Kulwant Khejroliya, who will partner Navdeep Saini. "He is an exciting prospect, and we have gone by our gut feeling after having watched him at the nets. We feel validated that even the senior selectors have gone ahead and chosen him for the Board's XI game against Australia." Kulwant's induction meant there was no room to include the likes of Parvinder Awana and Varun Sood. "Having dropped Awana and Sood does not mean it's the end of the road for them. We want to shake people out of their comfort zones and give youngsters a chance. We want to keep rotating players and create a healthy mix of experience and youth in this team," he explained.

Spinner Vikas Mishra, who was part of India's U-19 World Cup winning squad in 2012, makes his return. He will complement the experienced all-rounder Manan Sharma. Rishabh Pant, who was the captain in the shorter formats last season was not considered for the role of a captain this time around as the selectors felt he will not be available for the full season because of his international commitments. Keeping that in mind, the selection panel have appointed young Anut Rawat as the reserve wicket-keeper.

Delhi Squad: Ishant Sharma (C), Gautam Gambhir, Unmukt Chand, Nitish Rana, Dhruv Shorey, Milind Kumar, Himmat Singh, Kunal Chandela, Rishabh Pant (WK), Manan Sharma, Vikas Mishra, Pulkit Narang, Navdeep Saini, Vikas Tokas, Kulwant Khejroliya. Reserves: Simranjeet Singh, Shivam Sharma, Aditya Kaushik, Harsh Tyagi and Anuj Tyagi.

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