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North Zone league: chance for youngsters

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The focus will be on youngsters as Delhi, Punjab and Haryana prepare to showcase their talent in the North Zone one-day league that takes off at three venues in the Capital from Friday.

Delhi, led by a new captain, Mithun Manhas, will be under pressure since it fared poorly in the Ranji Trophy. "Difficult phase" conceded coach Madan Lal even as Manhas tried to project the positive aspect of his squad.

"It is a young team and I don't want to put pressure on the boys. All I want from them is best of effort. Win or lose is part of the game but they need to be honest. We seniors (Aakash Chopra and Amit Bhandari) have a huge role to play. The seniors have to take on the responsibility and guide the youngsters. We need to protect the youngsters and back them by giving them time during their grooming process. I just want them to play as hard as they can and look to improve," said Manhas.

Young blood

Credit to the Delhi selectors for inducting young blood. "They must grab the chance and perform," stressed Madan Lal. Attacking batsman Virat Kohli, gangling quick bowler Ishant Sharma, fast-improving wicketkeeper Puneet Bisht, promising strokeplayer Gaurav Chhabra and a quality all-rounder Suhail Sharma provide the Delhi team with the ammunition required to slam the opposition.

His Punjab counterpart, Dinesh Mongia, endorsed the Delhi captain's view on the significance of youngsters. Punjab too performed inconsistently this season and Mongia was candid, "We have had to explain to our authorities why we failed to deliver. This is a chance for us to make amends. We can gain a lot by winning the title," said Mongia, who has just recovered from a skull injury that required a surgery in Chennai.

"I have stopped worrying about playing for India. There is no point losing sleep and peace of mind on why I don't get picked for India despite performances. Presently, I am concentrating on helping Punjab do well and I want the same commitment from this team," emphasised Mongia, who has developed into an all-rounder this season with his exploits as a left-arm spinner too.

Rajeev Nayyar is back

Himachal Pradesh, rocked by faction-fight, has brought back veteran Rajeev Nayyar, who at 38, is the senior member of the competition. The team was picked by a three-member panel of National selector Bhupinder Singh, former Punjab captain Gursharan Signh and former Haryana stalwart Sarkar Talwar.

The presence of Nayyar and skipper Nischal Gaur gives the team a competitive look with professionals Manvinder Singh Bisla and Sandeep Sharma providing the solidity for Himachal Pradesh to challenge the likes of Delhi, Punjab and Haryana.

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