North brace up for zonal challenge on lively track
G Krishnan (from Ahmedabad)
NORTH ZONE have an upper hand as they begin their title defence against a young side from South in the first round of the Duleep Trophy tournament at the Sardar Patel Gujarat stadium, Motera, here from Saturday.
With the Ranji Trophy being done with, it is the turn of the players to showcase their talent in another prestigious competition in Indian cricket calendar, which immediately follows the national championship.
Players in the past have expressed the need to have Duleep Trophy soon after the Ranij Trophy as performances for their respective Sates would be justly rewarded. In the past, Duleep Trophy was held at the start of the season or in the middle, well before Ranji Trophy was over.
This year, the players can't complain.
For instance, with North deprived of the services of left-arm speedster Pradeep Sangwan, who has been selected in the India Under-19 squad for next month's World Cup and Joginder Sharma, who withdrew because of heel injury, Himachal Pradesh's new-ball duo of Ashok Thakur (35 sticks in seven matches) and Vikramjeet Singh Malik (27 scalps) have got the opportunity as they will spearhead the defending champions' attack.
Similarly, Karnataka medium-pacer R Vinay Kumar (40 scalps in seven games, second highest wicket-taker in Ranji this season) will hope to raise himself higher when he takes the new ball for South; Andhra's leading batsman, LN Prasad Reddy (495 runs) and leading bowler, P Vijay Kumar (21 wickets) have earned zonal selection based on Ranji show.
Likewise, Delhi all-rounder Rajat Bhatia, with 525 runs and 26 runs, will only hope to catch the selectors' eye with another impressive show here. Same will be the case with Aakash Chopra and S Badrinath, both of whom figure among the top three in the run getters' list in all first class matches this season.
The presence of live grass on the pitch rolled well into the surface is a pleasant sight for the players, particularly the bowlers. With the bounce promising to be good and the ball expected to have a good carry into the wicketkeeper's gloves, the players are looking set for a good contest.
North Zone coach Vijay Dahiya and South Zone captain Badrinath had similar views on the pitch.
Dahiya, fresh from guiding Delhi to Ranji Trophy triumph last week, said, "We wanted to play on result-oriented pitches, not the kinds that are only spin-friendly. You give some hope to the fast bowlers, and to the batsmen to play their strokes so that when they go overseas, they are not found wanting."
Badrinath said that it would be "a contest of equals". "Every side looks to be balanced. All the players are here because they have done well in Ranji Trophy. The green top promises something for the seamers early on but as the game goes, it should be good for batting."
Good displays in this competition, especially against the touring England Lions, will lift the players to another level. England Lions, otherwise known as England 'A', were the first team to participate in Duleep Trophy since the idea to invite an overseas team was implemented in 2003-04.
Munaf's return bolsters West
Abhishek Hore (from Rajkot)
THE GAME of hide-and-sick is over and Munaf Patel is now focussed on the game that's helped him become a subject for writing over the past few years.
A loose-limbed Munaf rolling his arms over at full strength on Friday, a day before West Zone take on Central in the Duleep Trophy opener at the Madhav Rao Scindia Stadium, was a welcome deviation for those fed-up with the dilly-dallying over his availability. On the other hand, the India pacer's appearance is not good news for Central, who are missing a few key figures.
While Munaf's return has strengthened West, Central were dealt a blow when Suresh Raina, Piyush Chawla and Praveen Kumar were included in the squad for the tri-series in Australia.
Gearing up for a brush with the big league, the three were instrumental in Uttar Pradesh reaching the Ranji Trophy final, and Central would sorely miss their services.
While Chawla shone with his wrist spin, Raina along with Central skipper Mohammad Kaif did the of scoring for UP. The two have plundered over 1200 runs this Ranji season. Praveen, with his allrounder abilities, adds up enormous value to the side. Their absence would mean more workload on the energetic shoulders of Kaif.
While the skipper accepted that his team would miss the key players, he was happy to be playing alongside Sanjay Bangar and Murali Kartik. "We have played a lot of cricket together and their presence is encouraging," he said.
Going through a purple patch since India A's tour to South Africa last year, West skipper Parthiv Patel, disappointed at not being selected for the Australia tour despite slamming five hundreds on the trot, would look to make the Zonal meet a comfort zone for himself.
Asked about Munaf's return, Parthiv sounded confident and said the "bowler is completely fit and raring to go". On team composition, the baby-faced skipper said, "We'll be missing Rohit Sharma and (Ajit) Agarkar (due to injury). But their absence gives the younger players a chance to establish themselves and the national hopefuls an opportunity to strengthen their claim for a call-up," he said.
Neeraj Patel and Siddharth Trivedi have been picked to fill the void created by Sharma and Agarkar.
Sandeep Jobanputra, who would have been warming the bench had Agarkar recovered from injury, will in all probability open the bowling with Munaf. Jobanputra finished with 36 wickets in Ranji Trophy and would be hoping his form spills over.
Two matches from 26 to 29 January 2008
North Zone VS South Zone at Ahmedabad
West Zone Vs Central Zone at Rajkot
North Zone won Duleep Trophy for 16 times (with once joint winner)
West Zone won Duleep Trophy for 16 times (with 3 times joint winner)
South Zone won Duleep Trophy for 10 times (with once joint winner)
Central Zone won Duleep Trophy for 5 times (with once joint winner)
East Zone won the Duleep Trophy once.
West Zone and Central Zone has played 23 matches in the tournament while WZ has won 11 and CZ has won 3 matches, remaining ended ina draw.
North and South has played 23 mathces against each other. With NZ has won 8 and SZ has won 7 matches.
This will be North Zone's 94th match. They have won 32 and lost 18 while 42 ended in a draw and one NO RESULT match.
South Zone has played 87 matches with 22 win, 26 lost , 35 drawn and 4 NO RESULT matches.
West Zone will play it's 97th match. They have won 30 and lost 15 of them. 50 ended in a draw and one NO RESULT match.
Central Zone has played 83 matches so far. They have won 18 and lost 27 with 34 drawn and 4 NO RESULT match.
Highest score in tournament
868 (including 68 penalty runs) by North Zone Vs West Zone at Bhilai in 1987-88
Lowest Score :
48 by North Zone Vs South Zone at Nehru Stadium,Chennai, 1961-62
Most Runs in Duleep Trophy :
2265 runs by Vikram Rathour (NZ) in 25 matches
Most Wickets :
126 wickets in 29 matche by Narendra Hirwani (CZ)
Most runs in an innings
320 by Raman Lamba NZ Vs WZ at Bhilai, 1987-88
Best Bowling in an innings :
10 for 46 by DS Mohanty for EZ VS SZ at Agartala, 2000-01
Best Bowling in a match :
14 for 91 by DS Mohanty for EZ VS SZ at Agartala, 2000-01