Four-day Duleep Trophy semi-final match to get under way in city today

It may not be a big ticket One Day International match where a fiery Dale Steyn steams in to hurl the leather at speeds in excess of 150 kmph at a swashbuckling M.S. Dhoni capable of sending it beyond the ropes at even greater speed.

The usual buzz in the city in the days leading up to an ODI may also be definitely missing as there was no mad rush to catch a glimpse of the players when they trooped in for the practice sessions.

But the genuine fans of the game, not the ones who are only enthused by the stardom of the players on the field, will be keenly following the four-day Duleep Trophy semi-final match between the North Zone and the East Zone that will get underway at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium at Kaloor on Thursday.

For, it is the first time that the city is playing host to back-to-back crucial games of a major domestic tournament. The semi finals will be followed by the five-day finals at the same venue.

The timing of these matches and their relevance to the overall development of the game in the city and the State as a whole can hardly be overemphasized coming as it does close on the heels of the selection of six Malayalis to key committees of Board of Control for Cricket in India, the apex body governing the game in the country.

Notwithstanding the Ranji Trophy matches held here, hosting Duleep Trophy matches of national relevance will definitely help the city’s case for being elevated in to a venue for Test matches.

“If you look at other grounds, almost all of them graduated in to Test venues after holding longer duration domestic matches. We are also ready to host the longer duration matches of visiting international teams touring the country,” T.C. Mathew, Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) president who was recently appointed as the chairman of the National Cricket Academy, told The Hindu.

With the KCA foregoing revenue to ensure better spectator participation, entry to both matches will be free. These matches are likely to increase the acceptance for the longer version of the game among the young fans, Mr. Mathew said.

Everyone associated with the game in the city were equally upbeat about things in store for the city in the wake of Duleep Trophy matches.

“This is definitely a stepping stone to becoming a Test venue. We have been holding ODIs commendably enhancing our acceptance among those concerned. Getting the ground and facilities ready on time will boost our image,” said K. Jayaraman, director, KCA’s Cricket Academics and Game Development.

K.N. Raghavan, former International umpire, said that organising Duleep Trophy matches in the city was a welcome move.

“Kochi hasn’t had much exposure to longer duration matches. It will be an ideal occasion for young cricket fans to watch the game and get a feel of it,” he said.

Sachin Baby, State Ranji player who has played for India A, has no doubt that it is just a matter of time before the city is accorded the test match status. The pitch and the ground conditions, he felt, should definitely win the city that status sooner than later.

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