NEW DELHI: Gautam Gambhir's final appearance in competitive cricket will add an emotional overtone to an otherwise normal Ranji Trophy group league encounter between a depleted Delhi and Andhra starting here from Thursday.
One of the biggest names to ever don the Delhi jersey, Gambhir will be retiring from his spiritual home, the Feroz Shah Kotla, amidst an outpouring of emotion on social media, where he enjoys a sizeable following.
However, Delhi would have ideally liked the veteran left-hander to at least complete the season but having understood that a good IPL deal is a long shot, Gambhir did what any player who has played a bit of international cricket would do -- retire with minimum fuss.
While it's a dream for any player to retire in an Indian jersey, Gambhir will be happy that he is calling it quits on his own terms even though his state team is in a spot of bother.
With regular captain Nitish Rana and the talented Himmat Singh away on national duty (with Emerging India squad), Gambhir's experience was much more required at this stage where a couple of bad matches will put Delhi out of knock-out contention.
Gambhir will be the star attraction even as home team coach Mithun Manhas plans to hand three debuts.
One of them is U-23 captain Jonty Sidhu, whose senior team debut has been much anticipated after a string of good shows at the U-19 and U-23 level.
A former U-19 India captain, the lanky left-hander Jonty is also a brilliant fielder and will replace skipper Rana in the playing XI as Dhruv Shorey leads the side.
The other debutant could be left-arm spinner Shivank Vasist while veteran Vaibhav Rawal may come in place of Himmat.
The three players out of the 15 are Sarthak Ranjan, Kunwar Bodhuri, both of whom failed in the last game, along with left-arm spinner Varun Sood.