The devil is in the mind as it doesn’t really matter whom you play,” were North Zone skipper Aakash Chopra’s words on the eve of their Duleep Trophy semifinal clash against South Zone on Wednesday.
In his maiden season as skipper in the Duleep Trophy, Chopra promised to carry on the momentum and hoped he could defend the title having missed out on the Ranji crown.
South Zone, on the other hand, will miss skipper VVS Laxman and Tamil Nadu's S Badrinath will lead the squad with Dinesh Karthik as his assistant. Laxman, who twisted his ankle while training on the second day of their opening tie against Central, is ruled out and Kerala's left-hand batsman P Rohan Prem is expected to join the squad tonight.
South Zone have an edge considering their win over Central in the opening tie and the onus is on Chopra to defend the title. Dinesh Karthik slammed tons in both innings in the last game and Rahul Dravid also scored one. S Sreesanth, who is on a comeback trail, is looking to find his rhythm while Andhra leggie M Suresh picked up six wickets in Central's second innings.
However, statistics are of little relevance to Chopra and he said “what matters is performance on a given day.” The Delhi batsman refused to get cowed down by the star-studded opposition and said North have always been successful with low profile sides. “We didn't have the big names last year and it has always been a team effort. It doesn't really matter if you have stars playing a match. What is important is performance.”
Chopra, however, conceded that South have a slight edge in handling the Kookaburra ball as the latter have already played a match while this would be North's first in the tournament. “This is the first day we played with the Kookaburra ball and it is little different from the SG ball,” said Chopra. Delhi’s Chetanya Nanda will miss the tie with a fractured elbow and South’s Arjun Yadav is a doubtful starter as he is ill.