Some stars, but not shining

That Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh - rival skippers for the Challenger Trophy's first match here on Thursday - stepped into the plane to Indore from the capital's Terminal 3 on Wednesday morning hand in hand, sharing jokes, and not with their teams, takes a bit of challenge out of the event.

The captains seemed to have no secrets to hide and there is no desperation to bunch the players together. India vice-captain Virat will play for Delhi for these four days of Challenger before he gets busy with India duty while Yuvraj's India Blue too will be scattered immediately afterwards. Yusuf Pathan-led India Red are the third team..

Challengers have always been like these - short, crisp, and made of a disparate group that would come together only for four days. There was a time when this being a rare domestic event, it attracted an array of stars for a team then called India seniors. Now, with cricket being played non-stop, top players have become rare in this event.

Schedule trouble
Worse, it has to be squeezed into the schedule, even if it means during the rains. Indore is experiencing showers and curator Samandar Singh, who produced the pitches in Gwalior and Indore where Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag smashed ODI double-centuries, has been working hard.

"I have somehow managed to save the playing turf," he said. Luckily it didn't rain on Wednesday, although practice was delayed till 2 pm.

However, the Board seems to have too much on its plate and this one is likely to be sold out as it has managed to attract some stars.

"There is too much cricket to handle. This one is just a domestic event. Last year, we had the entire New Zealand series of Tests and T20Is affected by rains," a Board official said. "The Board, in fact, asked the stars to play this event to sell it."

Big names
No wonder, Viru will join India A only after the Challengers.

Former players know its significance has died but they don't want to set the alarm bells ringing.

Says former India coach Madan Lal, "Such tournaments are for individuals, especially for youngsters who want to do well and hope for an IPL contract. We are lucky this time some top players like Viru, Virat, Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar are there because probably they haven't played for long and want to get into rhythm. During the season, no one would have played."

Former India spinner Maninder Singh says, "It just helps you show your consistency level to selectors. Look at Shikhar Dhawan. He scored in the Challengers last year (two centuries and a 99), all of that counted."


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