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North and West primed for a good show

Arun Venugopal
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CRICKET / Chance for hopefuls to come good as Duleep Trophy quarterfinal gets underway

GETTING PREPARED:North Zone's Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra snapped during the practice session on the eve of the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal against West.— PHOTO: V. GANESAN
GETTING PREPARED:North Zone's Ishant Sharma and Amit Mishra snapped during the practice session on the eve of the Duleep Trophy quarterfinal against West.— PHOTO: V. GANESAN

With the Duleep Trophy slotted in at the beginning of the season as part of the re-structured Indian domestic calendar, the combatants — North Zone and West Zone — would be primed to make capital of their quarterfinal duel beginning here on Saturday.

Neither team has rosy memories of its showing in the competition last year, having been shown the exit door by eventual champion East Zone. While West fizzled out in the quarterfinal, North went down in a last-four clash after failing to secure the first-innings lead.

There hasn’t been much change in the composition of either side from the last edition; young and experienced personnel alike will seek to ensure that their performances resonate with the newly-appointed selection committee.

Prolific Pujara

West’s batting might is, doubtless, a result of the presence of skipper Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. The 24-year-old Pujara has been irrepressible ever since his successful comeback to the Indian side: he belted out a brace of unbeaten tons and a half-century in a victorious NKP Salve Challenger Trophy campaign for India ‘B’. Kedar Jadhav, Abhishek Nayar, and Kaustubh Pawar round off a fine batting unit.

The bowling complement includes pacers Ishwar Chaudhary and Kshemal Waingankar. Promising left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh and wicket-keeper Smit Patel, members of the under-19 World Cup winning team, are also part of the mix.

“It’s a good blend of youth and experience. Most of the players were part of the Challenger Trophy as well. Captaincy keeps me involved and has helped my batting,” said Pujara, after practice at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Friday. He declined to comment on Parthiv Patel’s late inclusion in the side, a decision that has since attracted controversy.

Meanwhile, North Zone, which was initially announced as being led by Virender Sehwag and featuring marquee players such as Gautam Gambhir and Harbhajan Singh, has to contend with the absence of the aforementioned players (either due to injury or participation in the Champions League).

Onus on Dhawan

On captain Shikhar Dhawan lies the responsibility of marshalling the batting group. His pursuit will be aided by the likes of Uday Kaul, Paras Dogra, and Rahul Dewan.

Ishant Sharma, who has operated with confidence after his return from injury, will partner the impressive Parvinder Awana. Leg-spinner Amit Mishra’s cunning could be a handful as the track tires.

“Selectors follow each and every game and if you are performing, and an opening arises in the national team, you can get a call up. The boys are hungry to do well,” said Dhawan.

The wicket is likely to offer help for seamers initially before going on to become batsman-friendly and, in due course, slow.

The teams (from):

North Zone: Shikhar Dhawan (capt.), Ishant Sharma, Parvinder Awana, Vikas Mishra, Bipul Sharma, Mayank Sidhana, Uday Kaul (wk), Paras Dogra, Rishi Dhawan, Gurvinder Singh, Nitin Saini (wk), Harshal Patel, Rahul Dewan, Sunny Singh, Amit Mishra, I.D. Singh.

West Zone: Cheteshwar Pujara (capt.), Ajinkya Rahane, Ankit Bawne, Bhushan Chauhan, Samad Fallah, Kedar Jadhav, Abhishek Nayar, Kaustubh Pawar, Kshemal Waingankar, Ishwar Chaudhary, Ankeet Chavan, Harmeet Singh, Murtuza Vohra, Kamlesh Makvana, Smit Patel (wk), Parthiv Patel (wk).

Officials: Umpires: Subrat Das & C. Shamsuddin. Match Referee: Chinmay Sharma.

Hours of play: 9.30 a.m. to noon; 12.40 to 2.40 p.m.; 3 p.m. to 4.30 p.m.

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