The T20 inter-state tournament is back after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)) couldn’t find a window to slot it in last year. The North Zone leg of the tournament begins on Tuesday in New Delhi with all six teams from the zone - Delhi, Punjab, Himachal, Haryana, J& K and Services - set to slug it out in a bid to make the knock-out stage.
Unlike in the 50-over format, Delhi don’t start favourites against their zonal opponents, on two counts. First, the format doesn’t allow any team to enter the fray as overwhelming favourites; and secondly, Delhi wear a rather depleted look in the absence of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Ishant Sharma and Ashish Nehra, who will leave to attend the India camp in Mumbai. From amongst the two other permanent members - Mithun Manhas and Rajat Bhatia- only the latter would be available as Manhas is injured.
“I am not worried about who’s not available to us in the tournament. I see the situation as a great opportunity for others to step in and deliver the goods. And we have players who could win us games on their own,” said Delhi coach Vijay Dahiya.
Like Delhi, Punjab too sport a rather new and youthful look. Wicketkeeper batsman Uday Kaul will lead the side, and it’s surely not going to be a stroll in the park for the youngster for he won’t have many seasoned players to turn to if the going gets tough.
Punjab coach Bhupinder Singh (Sr), however, sounded quite confident about the abilities of his team. “We will obviously start as underdogs in the tournament, but we have the ability to spring a surprise even on the best in the business,” the Punjab coach said.
Himachal and Haryana have fielded more or less the same squad that turned out for Ranji Trophy and one-dayers last season. “It’s tough to make any predictions, but we are quite confident. We have a batting line-up, capable of giving any opposition a run for their money,” said Himachal coach Rajdeep Kalsi.
As for J&K and Services, the two teams will need to play out of their skins to make their presence felt in the tournament.