Mohali: Sans India opener Shikhar Dhawan and speedster Ishant Sharma, a depleted Delhi will have to improve their game significantly to present a tough challenge against table leaders Punjab in their Ranji Trophy match, beginning here on Friday.
Delhi, whose batting has proved to be their weakest link so far this season, will find it tougher in the absence of Dhawan, who will miss the game as he will be on national duty with Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka starting January 5 in Guwahati.
The southpaw had made a match-winning 140 in testing conditions against Hyderabad in the previous game at Feroz Shah Kotla grounds.
Kunal Chandela, who failed in the last two games after scoring a hundred against Kerala in the tournament-opener, is likely to open with Anuj Rawat in Dhawan's absence.
Since it is an away game, Delhi's lead pacer Ishant is also be unavailable as he play only home matches as part of his workload management. Expectations are high from 21-year-old Simrajeet Singh, who impressed in the last two games against Hyderabad and Andhra, taking 12 wickets.
Medium pacer Subodh Bhati may get a chance to play his first game of the season in Ishant's absence.
After salvaging a draw against Kerala, Delhi had lost to Andhra in an away game before beating Hyderabad at home. The Dhruv Shorey-led side has its task cut out against hosts Punjab, who are the team to beat with two bonus points victories and a draw.