Earning a slot in the Duleep Trophy squad was considered one step short of playing for India.

That was during an era when Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar would face the likes of Bishan Singh Bedi and Kapil Dev or a Mohinder Amarnath would tackle the menace of B.S. Chandrashekhar and Erapalli Prasanna.

A North-West or North-South clash was quite akin to Test cricket. Such was the level of competition. Not anymore.

Of late, the Duleep Trophy has come to lose its importance for many reasons.

Often, performances in the Duleep Trophy go unnoticed. The absence of big players not only keeps the spectators away but the participants too struggle to motivate themselves. There is not much at stake except the prize money to be earned. There could be exceptions though.

On a mission

The outright victory against a strong West Zone in the last match underlined the fact that East was a team on a mission.

“We look for collective contribution. We have a very effective combination and hope to make the most of the conditions here. Ashok (Dinda) and Abu (Nechim) could play the leading roles with the new ball,” said Debasis Mohanty, former India seamer and now East coach.

Centuries by Natraj Behera and Anustup Majumdar ensured the first innings lead was not lost to West after Nechim had restricted the opposition by claiming Cheteshwar Pujara, Ambati Rayudu and Abhishek Nayar in an incisive spell on a good pitch at Valsad.

“It looks a decent pitch,” said Mohanty, feeling the grass at the Ferozeshah Kotla.

If the pitch plays true, North seamers Harshal Patel and Parvinder Awana will also be the ones to watch out for. Left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra is a cricketer with a lot of promise and this could well turn out to be the platform for him to make an impression.

For Rahul Dewan (Haryana) and Abhinav Bali (Himachal Pradesh) it can be a most gratifying outing if they get to perform at the Kotla.

Both are local products and were forced to look elsewhere due to Delhi's selection policies. Mayank Sidhana (Punjab) and Paras Dogra (HP) happen to be in the same boat.

National selector Mohinder Amarnath's presence would add value to the contest.

The teams (from):

North Zone: Amit Mishra (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Rahul Dewan, Rajat Bhatia, Mandeep Singh, Puneet Bist, Mayank Sidhana, Abhinav Bali, Rishi Dhawan, Paras Dogra, Vikas Mishra, Parvinder Awana, Harshal Patel, Pradeep Sangwan and Ian Dev Singh.

East Zone: Natraj Behera (captain), Dheeraj Jadhav, Manish Vardhan, Ishank Jaggi, Bilap Samantray, Wriddhiman Saha, Shreevats Goswami, Anustup Majumdar, Shahbaz Nadeem, Basant Mohanty, Abu Nechim, Ashok Dinda, Shami Ahmed, Rana Dutta, Gokul Sharma and Subhrajit Roy.

Umpires: Shaun George (South Africa) and S. Ravi.

Keywords: Duleep Trophy

More In: Cricket | Sport