: For a change, the Duleep Trophy this year assumes greater significance for probable contenders for slots in the Indian team and also for those dreaming of a comeback. It is scheduled ahead of the England and Australian home series.

And, the star who is all set to be the focal point for the fans and also National selectors will be Yuvraj Singh of North Zone, which will take on last year’s runner-up Central Zone in the four-day semifinal of the Duleep Trophy at Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here on Sunday.

“This is my first four-day game and I am keen to make an impact,” said Yuvraj, after a long session at the nets and gym.

Perhaps, it represents the mood of many others like him who are keen to come up with good performances.

The pitch is expected to be true and helpful to both pace and spin bowlers. “This is an important game for all of us and we are very keen to start off in style,” said Central Zone captain Mohd Kaif after his team’s training session. “We have a good, balanced side and a blend of experience and youthful exuberance,” he added.

There are serious doubts though whether leg-spinner Piyush Chawla will play or not. “He suffered a foot injury here during a practice session and we will take a final call on his fitness on the advice of the team physio,” said Central coach Abhay Sharma.


The Central camp is optimistic of its “good bowling attack” comprising of India discard Praveen Kumar, young Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and classy left-arm spinner Murali Karthik (Umesh Yadav is not available because of his participation in the CLT20). “They are good enough to test the best of any side,” insists Kaif.

On the other hand, North Zone captain Shikhar Dhawan, for whom this is a virtual ‘home ground’ after his stint with Deccan Chargers, is also confidence personified while stressing that there will be an absorbing battle for the next four days.

“We are a pretty balanced side and are really pleased with our performance against West Zone in Chennai. It is great to see Ishant (Sharma) bowl with lot of fire. He is a fantastic bowler and there is lot of variety in his bowling.”

Dhawan also believes the toss may not be so crucial given the nature of the wicket. “Maybe, the first day’s play might well be very significant in the context of the match,” he says.

The teams (from):

Central Zone : Mohd Kaif (capt.), Ashok Menaria, Robit Bist, Vineet Saxena, Parvinder Singh, Rajat Baradkar, Tanmay Srivastav, Mahesh Rawat, Piyush Chawla, Jalaj Saxena, Praveen Kumar, Murali Karthik Bhuvnesh Kumar, Rituraj Singh and Ishwar Pandey.

Coach : Abhay Sharma. Manager: Narendra Bagtharia.

North Zone : Shikhar Dhawan (capt.), Yuvraj Singh, Ishant Sharma, Rahul Sharma, Amit Mishra, Parvinder Awana, Paras Dogra, Mayank Siddana, Uday Kaul, Nitin Saini (wk), Rahul Dewan, Mandeep Singh, Harshul Patel, Gurvinder Singh and Rishi Dhawah. Manager : Ashok Vaswani.

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