Hurt by last-minute rescheduling and the absence of stars, the final stage of the Airtel-Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 cricket tournament begins here on Tuesday.
The inaugural edition was held a year after India’s early exit from the 2007 World Cup. Tamil Nadu defeated Punjab in the final in Mumbai but the tournament was affected by logistic issues as it was played under hot conditions in April.
This time, the competition was moved from Ranchi to Indore at the last minute due to non-availability of flight tickets to Jharkhand’s capital.
The rescheduling has hampered the plans of the teams with most of them arriving in the city only on the eve of the tournament.
In fact, the Delhi squad did not reach Indore until Monday evening and will go into its opening contest against Kerala on Tuesday with little preparation. However, coach Sanjeev Sharma does not believe that the late arrival of last year’s semifinalist will hurt its chances in the tournament.
“The team has been playing regularly in the last seven-eight months. We have a good, young side with attacking bowlers. I’m confident that we’ll do well,” said Sharma.
However, Delhi will field a depleted squad as the likes of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Mithun Manhas have pulled out due to various reasons. Moreover, captain Rajat Bhatia will not play the first two matches and wicketkeeper Puneet Bisht is expected to lead the side in his absence.
Defending champion Baroda too is missing the star duo of Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel due to injuries while skipper Yusuf Pathan will not take part due to personal reasons.
Ahead of his team’s opener against Bengal, Baroda coach N. Sanath Kumar confirmed that Ambati Rayudu would be the stand-in captain of a side that will feature many young players.
Last year’s runner-up Punjab will also have to do without the services of Yuvraj Singh.
Punjab and Baroda will be joined by Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka in Group B, with all the matches to be played at the Holkar Stadium.
The Group A games will be held at Emerald Heights School and will feature three zonal table-toppers in Delhi, Gujarat and Odisha. Kerala and Vidarbha complete the pool.
The winner from each group will clash in the final to be played at the Holkar Stadium on March 31.