Strange how just one over can change one’s world in cricket. After a stunning 17th over, in which he got three wickets and helped Mumbai Indians take the Champions League T20 title the other day, Harbhajan Singh is now brimming with confidence.
Harbhajan, who leads North Zone in the Duleep Trophy semifinal against East which begins at the Nehru Stadium here on Thursday, must be hungry to use the longer version of the game to get back into the Indian team.
With its captain on a high, the North players were a confident lot.
“It’s always very good to have players who have performed well in the recent past, it helps to motivate the team,” said North’s young star Unmukt Chand speaking to the media on behalf of his captain.
Though East, led by wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha, is the defending champion, it is North which appears stronger here.
Apart from Harbhajan and Unmukt, the captain of the Indian team which won the under-19 World Cup last year, North has players like Rishi Dhawan, Jiwanjot Singh and Mohit Sharma all hungry to make a mark and find a way into the Indian team.
The West Indies will be in the country next month and there could be a tour of South Africa around the corner, so the players are not short on motivation.
“Obviously, it’s a nice platform to perform, some of the best players of the country are here, so I’m motivated to do well,” said Unmukt.
Meanwhile, Saha said he would not let the edge which North seemed to enjoy play on his mind.
“They have strong players but we don’t think about that, we just focus on our game,” said Saha, who had played for India earlier, like his teammate Ashoke Dinda, the medium-pacer.
It had rained heavily here on Tuesday night and the two teams had their nets under an overcast sky on Wednesday evening. Rain will be a factor which will decide which team opts to bat first.
After the four-day semifinal, Kochi will also host the final from October 17 to 21.
The teams (from): North Zone: Harbhajan Singh (capt.), Jiwanjot Singh, Unmukt Chand, Ian Dev Singh, Mandeep Singh, Rajat Paliwal, Nitin Saini (wk), Rishi Dhawan, Mohit Sharma, Siddharth Kaul, Sandeep Sharma, Parvinder Awana, Vikas Mishra, Sarabjit Ladda, Vaibhav Raval.
East Zone: Wriddhiman Saha (capt. & wk), Basant Mohanty, Abu Nechim, Deepak Behera, Pallavkumar Das, Ashoke Dinda, Sunny Gupta, Ishank Jaggi, Anustup Majumdar, Shahbaz Nadeem, Rameez Nemat, Govind Podder, Biplab Samantray, Subhrajit Roy, Tarjinder Singh.
Umpires: Suresh Lalchand Shastri (Mumbai) and Paschim Pathak (Mumbai). Match referee: Narayan Kutty (Kerala).