Captains have a huge influence in the limited-overs game as they need to take instinctive decisions and make Power Play calculations.
In an event like the Challenger Series, where the selectors are expected to double up as cricket managers and teams don’t have coaches, captains M.S. Dhoni (India Blue), S. Badrinath (India Red) and Suresh Raina (India Green) are likely to have their hands full.
The opening fixture between India Blue and India Red at the floodlit VCA stadium will see Dhoni and Badrinath matching wits. S. Sreesanth, Siddharth Trivedi and Ashok Dinda offer Dhoni multiple new ball options and they will be supported by medium-pacer Abhishek Nayar and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Sreesanth, fit and fast, troubled the Mumbai batsmen in the Irani Cup and considers the Challenger Series for the N.K.P. Salve Trophy as another golden opportunity.
“I look at the Challenger as a lottery, like the Irani Cup, to continue my Warwickshire form,” said Sreesanth, now in a perfect frame of mind to startle the batsmen with control and movement.
“I have not played much cricket after the IPL and then picked up the back injury. The Challenger selection could not have come at a better time,” Sreesanth added.
The Kerala bowler’s ability to torment batsmen with late swing can work to India Blue’s benefit if the nippy Trivedi or Dinda can keep up the pressure at the other end.
Trivedi was named the ‘best player’ in last year’s Challenger final and Dinda has proved capable of rising to the occasion in first-class cricket. Nayar will prove an able foil with his controlled seam bowling.
Badrinath heads the list of explosive batsmen in the India Red line-up, followed by Ravindra Jadeja, Wriddhiman Saha, Sunny Sohal and Shikhar Dhawan who are all capable of destroying any bowling attack. The huge VCA stadium ground will be a big test of their power and timing.
Munaf Patel and Sudeep Tyagi are familiar with the venue, having featured in the victorious Rest of India squad. Ishant Sharma’s wicket-taking ability will be under the scanner.
India Green is an interesting mix of young batting and bowling talent in Ajinkya Rahane, S. Aniruddha and Dhawal Kulkarni under an untested captain, Raina. L. Balaji and Parthiv Patel will be the calming influence, thanks to their international experience.
The schedule: Oct. 8: India Blue v India Red; Oct. 9: India Green v India Red; Oct. 10: India Green v India Blue; Oct. 11: Final.
All matches start at 2.30 p.m.