The devaluation of the Duleep Trophy — once a critical stepping stone for any youngster who harboured ambitions of playing for the country — is virtually complete in the timing of this season’s final. South Zone play West for the title in Hyderabad, but the two teams will be without 11 of their front-line players.
West Zone’s Rohit Sharma, Parthiv Patel, Abhishek Nayar, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara and South’s Abhinav Mukund, Manish Pandey, R Ashwin, Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun are away, playing for the Board President’s XI against the visiting South Africans. Add to this S Badrinath, who is in the squad for the first Test, you have a complete XI missing in action.
What’s particularly curious is that 10 of these players are missing the Duleep final to be part of a two-day tour match that does not even have first-class status and is merely an opportunity for the South Africans to get used to the conditions and fine-tune their game ahead of the Test series.
Naturally this exodus of players has meant that several cricketers who might otherwise have found it difficult to make it to a zonal team now have a chance to make a mark.
There’s also a fair share of domestic veterans, some of them former India cricketers, in the mix on both sides.
Wasim Jaffer leads West and Dinesh Karthik South, but the player who can get most out of this game is mediumpacer Munaf Patel. The seamer from Ikhar has been in and out of the Indian team, but is seldom far from national selection.
With Ishant Sharma’s form dipping, inexperienced quicks like Sudeep Tyagi, and most recently Karnataka’s Abhimanyu Mithun, have got a look in.
This should spur Munaf on to try and force his way back into reckoning.