A. Joseph Antony

Vadodara: The Moti Baugh cricket ground should be an environmentalist's delight. The arena's resplendent greenery only complements the dense foliage from trees all around it, so akin to a forest.

Set on a 707-acre spread that houses the palace of the Gaekwads, erstwhile rulers of the princely State of Baroda, it also enfolds a golf course, a museum and a mausoleum, complete with ornate tombs and doors.

This venue should also serve as a reminder that similar royal patronage in the game's nascent stages has seen it emerge as a multi-million dollar enterprise in recent times.

In much of the surroundings, the 10-strip square must be just about the only sprinkling of brown. It will however be the very platform on which many careers could be launched when the Deodhar Trophy quarterfinal limited-over match between South and Central zones gets underway on Saturday.

South sounded pretty upbeat on the eve of the contest. “Most of our boys are from Tamil Nadu, fresh from victory in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and from Karnataka, which made it to the semifinals,” said manager R. Sudhakar Rao. “They are therefore in very good touch,” added the former Karnataka and international batsman.

“This event provides a good opportunity for players to perform close to the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the World Cup,” said Central Zone captain Suresh Raina.

“A live telecast will give them better exposure too,” he felt. Leading a zonal team for the first time, he said his squad was a blend of bowling and batting strength and raring to go in conditions quite conducive to cricket.

If the competition is poorer for the absence of Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa or Murali Vijay, the fireworks of Ambati Rayudu and Abhinav Mukund should make up for it.

Bright sunshine and warm weather hold out promise of clear blue skies and a 9 a.m. start when the action unfolds on Saturday.

The teams:

Central Zone: Suresh Raina (Capt.), Piyush Chawla (vice-captain), Jalaj Saxena, Naman Ojha, Mohnish Mishra, Harpreet Singh, M. Kaif, T.P. Singh, Ankit Sharma, Tanmay Shrivastava, R.P. Singh, Sudeep Tyagi, Robin Bisht, S. Wagh, Pankaj Singh. Coach: Gyanendra Pandey. Manager: Mukesh Sahani.

South Zone: R. Ashwin (Capt.), S. Badrinath, S. Sreesanth, Abhinav Mukund, S Anirudha, Manish Pandey, Ambati Rayudu, C.M. Gautam, K.B. Arun Karthik, Ganesh Satish, Pragyan Ojha, P. Prashanth, A. Mithun, R. Vinay Kumar, Saurabh Bandekar. Coach: K. Sanath Kumar. Manager: R. Sudhakar Rao .

More In: SPORT | Today's Paper