As 10 teams get down to business in the knockout rounds of the national One-day championship for the Vijay Hazare Trophy in Kolkata from Monday, the spotlight will again be on the stars past and present who have different reasons to play this tournament.
With the World Twenty20 scheduled to start within a week, this is also possibly the most important warm-up for some of the selected players. Topping the list is Yuvraj Singh who hasn’t got a single international match since the third ODI against South Africa at the Centurion almost three months ago. The game was abandoned due to rain after the South Africa innings.
He did start with a sparkling, unbeaten 96 against Delhi to wrest an important match in Punjab’s favour, but the going hasn’t been good for Yuvraj since then. With Ajinkya Rahane slowly cementing his place in the India team, Yuvraj isn’t quite assured of a middle-order berth. And even though there is no assurance, a few good innings here could turn it around for him. Yuvraj won’t have himself to blame if that actually happens.
STAYING IN SHAPE
The situation is just the reverse for Mohammed Shami, currently the India bowling spearhead. Having just returned from the Asia Cup, the pacer could have taken a week off. But keeping in shape ahead of the World Twenty20 is a priority for him. “It’s always a matter of pride to play for Bengal. Not only can I help my team but it will also serve as good practice for the Twenty20 World Cup,” Shami said on Saturday.
There is a possibility R Ashwin and Varun Aaron too might play for Tamil Nadu and Jharkhand respectively. That would add to the star quotient of a tournament that already features heavyweights like the Pathan brothers, Harbhajan Singh, Robin Uthappa and Manoj Tiwary.
Apart from that, and the fact that four matches will be played under lights at the Eden Gardens, there is little else to look out for in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. It is also likely to have little bearing on the national One-Day International team selection as India don’t get to play an ODI series till the last week of August, in England. Under these circumstances, the Indian Premier League is the only tournament that would keep the interest going for some of the yesteryear stars.
In Monday’s two pre-quarterfinals, Railways and Baroda will clash for a right to meet Punjab in the last eight. Winners of the game between Vidarbha and Services, who upstaged defending champions Delhi to qualify, will take on Jharkhand.