A grass-laden, red-soil pitch awaits the teams in the Duleep Trophy semifinals between Central and South Zone at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Thursday.
The mix of red soil and grass is interesting. There could be seam movement and bounce for the pacemen early on. The grass might bind the surface for some time but the pitch could start breaking up, as wickets of this nature do, from the third day afternoon. Then, the spinners come into play.
The quarterfinal at Chepauk was played on a clay strip. Ideally, the clay wicket should encourage consistent bounce, but there is a problem. The type of clay used in India differs from what is used in Australia or South Africa. Or, maybe, we still have not got the proportion right.
Many of the clay wickets prepared in India have been on the slower side; such as the one for the South-West game here. There were plenty of runs in the South first innings.
The batsmen will be challenged more in the upcoming duel; this is a good thing in domestic cricket. The bowlers, despite greater encouragement, will also be required to adjust their length.
The weather could don a vital role. Rain has been forecast. A cloud cover could help pacemen and delay pitch deterioration. Sunshine is essential for the surface to develop cracks.
South will be bolstered by left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha’s addition. He should form a partnership with promising off-spinner Malolan Rangarajan, who scalped five against West.
Malolan has worked on his back-foot landing. His back leg is now parallel to the crease and he is able to transfer his weight forward more efficiently.
Abhinav Mukund — he made it clear that only two specialist spinners would play — replaces Vinay Kumar as captain. South Zone has the in-form last match double-centurions B. Aparajith and Manish Pandey.
Kaif joins squad
Senior batsman Mohammed Kaif has joined the Central squad.
The team has a strong pace attack led by the pacy Umesh Yadav and a fizzy leg-spinner in skipper Piyush Chawla.
In batting, the compact Robin Bist has innings-building skills.
The teams: South Zone (from): A. Mukund (captain), B. Sumanth, K.L. Rahul, P.A. Reddy, B. Aparajith, M. Pandey, C.M. Gautam, A. Mithun, M. Rangarajan, S. Warrier, P. Ojha, R. Prem, A. Srinivas, H.S. Sharath, S. Bendekar, C.P. Shahid. Coach: S. Subramanian.
Central Zone (from): P. Chawla (captain), M. Dagar, N. Ojha, T. Srivatsava, M. Kaif, R. Bist, U. Birla, U. Yadav, I. Ahmed, A. Rajpoot, J. Saxena, S. Wagh, A. Paunikar, K. Sharma, V. Saxena, S. Srivatsava. Coach: T. Gonsalves.