There should be many hungry faces at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell Tests have been lined up in Kolkata and Mumbai next month and some of the stars here for the Duleep Trophy cricket final, between South Zone and North Zone, appear desperate to find their touch and make it to the Indian team for these matches.
Virender Sehwag, who landed in Kochi on Wednesday evening along Gautam Gambhir to strengthen the North team ahead of Thursday’s final, will be on top of that list.
Sehwag, who could manage just 38 and 2 in his last two first class games, will be keen to end his poor run while Gautam Gambir, who hit a century against the West Indies ‘A’ while playing for India ‘A’ in Hubli last week, will be hoping to impress the selectors once again.
Both Sehwag and Gambhir did not turn up for the team’s nets this evening but the North captain Harbhajan Singh, another hungry man, was focused as he bowled to a single stump for about an hour here.
But despite the arrival of Sehwag and Gambhir in the North team ahead of the five-day final, the South captain Abhinav Mukund was not unduly worried.
“Obviously, both of them are legends but at the end of the day, it’s another game and it’s going to be the final so everyone in our team is keyed up,” said the 23-year-old.
“We’ve got a couple of good additions to our squad, Dinesh Karthik and Stuart Binny, who definitely are going to be a big boost to us. As far as I’m concerned, I think we’ve got the momentum so we should go ahead and look to play the best.”
Mukund is a man in form and full of confidence. He scored a century in the Duleep Trophy semifinal against Central in Chennai and along with another centurion, the 19-year-old B. Aparajith, and left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who picked three and six wickets, helped South to an innings and 38-run victory in that game.
South is also coming to Kochi with two good games while North, despite scoring nearly 600 runs, could not test its team enough here after its semifinal against East was won by the spin of a coin as rain allowed just over two days’ play. It rained heavily last night and more rain is expected tonight but Mukund said that he wouldn’t allow it to trouble his mind.
“The wicket looks pretty fresh to me,” he said. “I don’t think it will take a lot of turn but I think it’s going to keep low.
“But as far as I’m concerned, we’re just looking at playing some good cricket and not worry about the external factors.”
The teams (from):
South Zone: Abhinav Mukund (captain), P. Akshanth Reddy, K.L. Rahul, B. Aparajith, Manish Pandey, C.M. Gautham, K. Dinesh Karthik, Malolan Rangarajan, A. Mithun (vice-captain), Pragyan Ojha, Stuart Binny, B. Sumanth, R. Aushik Srinivas, H.S. Sharath, C.P. Shahid, Sourabh Bandekar. Coach: Sunil Subramanian.
North Zone: Harbhajan Singh (captain), Unmukt Chand, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Jiwanjot Singh, Ian Dev Singh, Mandeep Singh, Rajat Paliwal, Nitin Saini, Rishi Dhawan, Mohit Sharma, Sarabjit Singh Ladda, Siddarth Kaul, Parwinder Awana, Sandeep Sharma. Coach: Rajesh Bawa.
Umpires: Suresh Lalchand Shastri (Mumbai) and Sanjay Hazare (Baroda). Match referee: Vinod Mathur (Jaipur).