Parthiv, Pathan reinforce West

DHARAMSHALA (HP), FEB. 26. A better-placed North Zone takes on a reinforced West Zone in a crucial Duleep Trophy league match commencing at the picturesque Dharamshala Cricket Stadium here on Friday.

Armed with four points after beating Central, North has to now ensure that it does not lose over the next four days, and with it, a place in the final. West, involved in a point-less battle against Central, will be looking for a win to match North's tally. West can then hope to prevail on tie-breaker and top the three-team group.

Since its last match, West stands strengthened with the inclusion of Irfan Pathan and Parthiv Patel, in place of Ranjit Kirid and Nayan Mongia respectively.

When South met East from February 14 to 17 here, the pitch lacked the kind of bounce the bowlers love. The ball came slowly off the surface and proved perfect for grafters. The ground authorities, obviously disappointed by the state of the grossly overused pitch, have promised a better strip for this match.

The presence of the Selection Committee Chairman, Syed Kirmani, and Kiran More should be an added reason for the aspirants to put their best foot forward. It will be interesting to know how these ex-Test wicketkeepers view the head-to-head contest between Parthiv Patel and Ajay Ratra.

There is still some time to go before the Indian team for the Test series against Pakistan is announced. Considering the fact that the selectors are looking at options, especially in the bowling department, seamers and spinners alike should try and make the most of the opportunity.

North's medium-pacers Amit Bhandari, Gagandeep Singh and Joginder Sharma, who gave a good account of themselves against Central, will be matching wits with their counterparts like Pathan, Rakesh Patel and Munaf Patel.

In the spin department, West's skipper Sairaj Bahutule, Romesh Pawar and North's Sarandeep Singh are among those on trial.

Among the batsmen, Yuvraj Singh has been trying to prove that he is good enough to play in Tests. But Sourav Ganguly indicated on Thursday that Yuvraj would have to wait his turn to represent the country in the longer version of the game.

Also on view will be batsmen like Akash Christian, Jacob Martin, Gautam Gambhir, Dinesh Mongia, Satyajit Parab and Mithun Manhas, who have been in tremendous form this season.

Overall, the teams are well matched and the battle between these traditional rivals promises to be a keen one.

The teams (from):

North Zone: Dinesh Mongia (Capt.), Akash Chopra, Mithun Manhas, Yuvraj Singh, Mithun Manhas, Ajay Ratra, Joginder Sharma, Sarandeep Singh, Gagandeep Singh, Amit Bhandari, Vishal Bhatia, Sangram Singh, Pankaj Dharmani and Fazil Mohammad.

West Zone: Sairaj Bahutule (Capt.), Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Parthiv Patel, Satyajit Parab, Vinayak Mane, Jacob Martin, Dhiraj Jadhav, Kaushik Afle, Romesh Pawar, Nilesh Kulkarni, Rakesh Patel, Munaf Patel, Sidharth Trivedi, Akash Christan and Irfan Pathan.

Umpires: S.K. Tarapore (Bangalore) and K.R. Shankar (Chennai); Match Referee: S. Banerjee (Kolkata).