Central hope to keep it up
(G Krishnan in Hyderabad)
Halfway through their Deodhar Trophy campaign, Central Zone have gleaned maximum points that they could muster from their first two matches. Ten points including two bonus against two West and North make them favourites to win their fifth title.
“Anybody will be happy at this stage,” Abhay Sharma, coach of Central Zone, told HT on Tuesday after arriving from Bangalore. “But with two more matches to go (against South on Thursday and East on Sunday), it is too early to say about our prospects.”
Central posted convincing victories in Bangalore and Sharma’s tactic was to clinch the game in the first half itself. “I don’t think too much about the full match,” Sharma said. “I look at dominating the first session and if we can make an impact, we can capitalise on the second half. That has been the secret of our successes against West and North.”
The former Railways and Central Zone wicketkeeper-batsman said lesser-known players have contributed in a big way. “One good thing is that we are not relying on one player. Youngsters have chipped in very well.”
Naman Ojha’s 110 and Faiz Fazal’s 66 on Monday proved Sharma right.
Central would be missing the services of Rudra Pratap Singh for Thursday’s clash against South here. “RP won’t be playing as he needs rest as per the Board’s instruction,” the 38-year-old said. RP was on Monday named in the squad for the first two Tests against South Africa after satisfying the selectors that he has fully recovered from hamstring injury by playing the first two Deodhar games.
“RP is in top form at the moment,” Sharma said. “He has worked hard in his own way and is very confident. He has peaked at the right time in his career.”
Central will also be without Murali Kartik, who injured his ankle on Monday and has been ruled out for at least three weeks. Kartik told HT from Bangalore that he would go to Chennai in the next couple of days with the Indian team’s temporary physio Paul Close and be monitored by him. However, his replacement for the Tests, Piyush Chawla would play against South, who will boast of Test pillars VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid among others.
The Central team management is pondering replacements for Kartik and RP as they are now reduced to 13.
“There are already left-arm spinner and medium-pacer in the squad,” said Central chief selector, Sanjay Jagdale. “If they need, we will think of it.”
Yuvraj all set to boost North
(Varun Gupta in Visakhapatnam)
SUCCOR SOMETIMES comes from unexpected quarters. After proving his fitness at the very last minute and surviving the sword that was hanging over his Test place, middle-order batsman Yuvraj Singh will boost North Zone's batting line-up that was so careless in their last game against Central, for their vital Deodhar Trophy encounter against defending champions West here on Thursday.
After a rather circumspect and indifferent showing in the Tests Down Under, Yuvraj was himself keen to get some valuable match-practice and runs under his belt before the first Test against South Africa begins in Chennai on March 26, something that the selectors also felt will stand him in good stead.
"Runs do wonders to any players' confidence and it is the same with Yuvraj. It is not a directive from us but a step only for the betterment of him, which Yuvraj knows fully well," said an Indian selector.
The selector also dismissed the notion that they were ambivalent about the fitness of Yuvraj. "For us, Yuvraj has passed the fitness test at the NCA and that is the end of that. He is fit and there is no more to it."
Virender Sehwag will also be available for North in their upcoming tie and will lead the side once again. Sehwag, along with Gautam Gambhir, had left for Delhi to attend an ONGC function straight after the loss to Central in Bangalore, and will reach Vizag on Wednesday morning along with the two southpaws.
The rest of the North players reached Vizag on Tueday after an arduous journey from Bangalore and took Tuesday off to rest their "fatigued bodies and minds".
Thursday's game will also be the last for the players who have been picked for the 14-man Indian Test squad in this year's edition of Deodhar Trophy as they have to assemble in Chennai on March 22 for a small camp prior to the first Test.
The news also came as a fillip for North Zone who were under the cosh after their abject failure in Bangalore and are at the bottom of the table with -1 point.