In the absence of six automatic starters in the playing XI, Delhi will have to play out of their skin to pose a challenge to their opponents when the north zone Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 Tournament begins in New Delhi on Wednesday.With Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli either injured or on India duty, their replacements, who have been picked in the 15-member squad for the Twenty20 tournament, have a golden opportunity to stake their claims with good performances.The absence of four batsmen has badly weakened the top order and it will be extremely difficult for those stepping in to provide the same kind of thrust. But opener Chetan Sharma, who replaced Dhawan after the left hander was called up for the ongoing One-day International series against Australia, has become one of the first to grab the opportunity.He cracked a fine 72 on Monday in a practice game against the Services at the Palam Ground. The 29-year-old left-hander helped Delhi win by six wickets and warm-up well for the team’s opening match against Himachal Pradesh, to be played at the same venue on Wednesday.Services made 136 for eight wickets in 20 overs, with Yashpal Singh scoring 72. Leg-spinner Chetanya Nanda, who has lately struggled with injuries, and offspinner Yogesh Nagar captured two wickets each. Delhi scored 141 for four and won with three deliveries to spare, with Sharma and Rajat Bhatia (26 not out) being the main scorers.Sharma will be one of the two openers and he will be pairing up either with Farman Ahmed or Ankur Julka. He is expected to be followed by captain Mithun Manhas, an experienced batsman who specialises in the longer version but can adjust his game to suit the shorter versions.advertisementManhas, 31, missed Monday’s game due to personal reasons, but he is expected to lead the side on Wednesday. He is most likely to be followed by Gaurav Chabra, hard-working all-rounder Bhatia and wicket-keeper Puneet Bisht.The bowling department, particularly the spin section, is comparatively weak. Apart from Nanda, left-arm spinner Puneet Mehra, who also bats left-handed, and off-spinner Nagar are the other slow bowlers.But both Manhas and new coach Manoj Prabhakar will be largely depending on the medium pacers, especially in the Ranji Trophy, to win matches. They have left-armer Pradeep Sangwan, Sumit Narwal, Kapil Yadav and Joginder Singh to pick from.Although Delhi won the friendly game on Monday, Prabhakar felt that there are areas that needed to be worked upon. “Batting, for instance, can be improved. Then, the bowlers have to learn to bowl in the slog overs in the Twenty20 format, like the yorker and the slower one,” the former India allrounder told M AIL T ODAY after the match.Prabhakar said the experienced Manhas and Bhatia will have to lead by example. “Manhas is basically a batsman made for the longer version but he can switch to the shorter formats,” he said about the most experienced batsman in the team. The right-hander, who is entering his 13th firstclass season, has amassed 6,424 runs in 110 matches.Bhatia, who has virtually mastered bowling in the Twenty20 format besides launching calculated attacks with the bat, is another player the coach has high hopes from. “He has brains and has an idea about this format. He bowls accurately and can take care of his four overs. If he bowls well he can provide a big support to the team,” he said.The real test for Delhi will, however, come in the Ranji Trophy.The selectors are already looking ahead to that challenge and have asked players other the 15 they have picked for the Mushtaq Ali Trophy to attend the nets. Delhi begin their Ranji campaign with a match against Bengal at the Ferozeshah Kotla on November 1.