On Tuesday, Delhi lost their Syed Mushtaq Ali national T20 knockouts opening game to Kerala, unfancied qualifiers from South Zone. Missing from the Delhi squad were seasoned professionals Gautam Gambhir, Rajat Bhatia and Mithun Manhas, all out due to injury and illness, taking time off before the Indian Premier League (IPL).
The only fit star, Virender Sehwag, who’d got off their T20 campaign with a quickfire knock a few days back, was busy in Delhi with his IPL franchise. He spent about an hour batting at the nets.
At the end of Tuesday’s practice, the Daredevils’ mentor, TA Sekar, said, “The players are trickling in. Some have international commitments while others are playing the BCCI T20 tournament.”
He agreed the scheduling - BCCI’s national T20 tournament coinciding with this pre-IPL camp — has been a bit of a bother. “They have struggled to slot the national T20, but I am sure the Board will take care of it next year.”
Sure they will, but there has to be space for it.
Ever since it began in 2007 to identify talent for the India T20 team, the Board has struggled to justify its existence, what with the IPL taking off in 2008 and providing the bulk of the T20 talent.
Last season, the tournament was broken into two parts with the league stages at the start of the season in September and the knockouts at the end, just before the IPL in March.
That schedule drew criticism from coaches like J&K’s Bishan Bedi, Delhi’s Manoj Prabhakar and Punjab's Vikram Rathore. Prabhakar even termed it as a feeder system for the IPL.
This year, they are holding it just before the IPL to ensure the players remain in T20 mode before the franchise event kicks off.
However, its final will be played on March 31, just three days before the IPL opener between the Daredevils and holders Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR).
Wonder what would have happened had KKR captain Gautam Gambhir and Daredevils’ Sehwag represented Delhi and taken their team to the final. Their IPL teams would have been headless.
Delhi 195/4 in 20 overs (Unmukt Chand 105, Milind Kumar 48) Kerala 197/4 in 18 overs (Rohan Prem 92 no, Sachin Baby 48). Kerala won by 6 wickets.