V.V. Subrahmanyam

HYDERABAD: It will be a battle between the youthful exuberance of South Zone and the experience of West Zone, the defending champion, when the two teams clash in the five-day final of the Duleep Trophy cricket championship at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium here from Tuesday.

The timing of this final, clashing with the Board President’s XI match against the touring South Africans, may well have taken the sheen away from this prestigious event in domestic cricket.

Huge challenge

But, as South captain Dinesh Karthik says it also in a way presents the young talents a huge challenge. West captain Wasim Jaffer added: “Apparently the President’s XI comprises those who are closer to the doors of national selection but what cannot be denied is that those who have made it to the teams here have done so by virtue of their consistency in the just-concluded Ranji season.”

By all means, the final should be a quality fare as there are many hopefuls who are hoping to get the nod from the national selectors.

Despite some of the big names missing from the two teams, especially South, the final should be an absorbing affair given the promise of curator Y.L. Chandrasekhar that it should be a good wicket for both the bowlers and the batsmen, lasting the full five days.

Ironically, the final is likely to be played in front of empty stands as the organisers have decided not take any risk by not throwing open the gates to avoid any crowd trouble.

Not the sight which the players would have loved to, though Karthik was spot on to remind that they were used to such sights as except for the Tests, internationals and the IPL matches, there were not many crowds in other domestic events in India.

“We are getting used to that and once on the field, our focus is totally different,” he said.

However, Wasim Jaffer felt that though the contest eventually boils down to the teams, it would have been better to play in front of a sizeable crowd.

Agarkar will be missed

“Both teams have a good chance. Any five-day game is a totally different proposition for it always gives you a chance to come back into the match unlike the four-day affairs where once the lead is settled there is nothing much,” said Jaffer even while stressing that he would badly miss the injured Ajit Agarkar.

For the record, West Zone has won the title 15 times and shared the trophy once while South Zone has emerged triumphant 11 times and also shared the title once.

The Duleep final also has a novelty in the fact that South African umpire Johan Cloete will officiate along with K.K. Hariharan as part of the exchange programme between the Indian and the South African cricket boards.

The teams (from): South Zone: Dinesh Karthik (capt.), S. Anirudha, Robin Uthappa, K.B. Arun Karthik, Ganesh Satish, C.M. Gautam (wk), Rohan Prem, C. Ganapathy, T. Achyut Rao, S. Arvind, Alfred Absolom, Shadab Jakati, Aushik Srinivas, K.B. Pawan and Syed Ahmed Quadri. Coach: K. Sanath Kumar.

West Zone: Wasim Jaffer (capt.), Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ramesh Powar, Harshad Khadiwale, Ankit Bawne, Iqbal Abdullah, Avishkar Salvi, Munaf Patel, Pinal Shah (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Chirag Pathak, Bhavik Thakkar and Kamlesh Makwane. Coach: Vijay Patel.

Umpires: K. K. Hariharan & Johan Cloete.

Match referee: Raju Mukherjee.

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