Strange as it may sound, it is Sri Lanka A who might have some ‘home’ advantage going into the Duleep Trophy final against North Zone starting on Sunday. They have been here for over 10 days, got a feel of the conditions at the Eden Gardens and also had the opportunity to train together.
North Zone — who don’t have a coach — arrived in batches from Friday and didn’t even have 100 per cent attendance during practice on match eve as Gautam Gambhir and Ashish Nehra arrived late on Saturday. The rest looked out of their comfort zone when they came to Eden from their hotel, which is much further away from the usual city hotels that first-class teams prefer.
Otherwise, there isn’t much to choose from two sides almost even in terms of international experience, talent and motivation. There are players in both teams trying to break into their national squads and those striving to make
What might give Lanka A the slight advantage in their bid to become the first foreign team to win this competition are the positives that come out of staying together. Acknowledging this, skipper Thilan Samaraweera added that the experience of beating South Zone here earlier should also come in handy.
North skipper Mithun Manhas had a different take. “That’s how it works in India. Zonal or even the India and India A teams are made up of players from different states. They know their job, so not being together isn’t a problem.”
Manhas pointed out there was depth and balance in his side, which beat East Zone by virtue of a huge first-innings lead in the previous match. “We have two openers who have played for India (Gambhir and Aakash Chopra) and three medium-pacers who have either played for India or come close (Nehra, Gagandeep Singh and Joginder Sharma).”
With VRV Singh still out with fever, Manhas says North are unlikely to change their combination. That means they will have two spinners to go with the quicker ones, of whom Joginder has hit hundreds in successive games.
And then, there is uncertainty over the only Sri Lankan to have played a three-figure knock in this competition. Malintha (not Lasintha) Warnapura hurt his shoulder while fielding practice on Friday and is doubtful, as is Upul Chandana, who has a hamstring problem.
North would be interested in one fact — that though the Lankans bat deep, there has not been a really big innings from their frontline batsmen. North, though, have had a century from wicketkeeper Mahesh Rawat apart from the two by Joginder, while Gambhir too being among the runs.
And this is where it becomes interesting because despite the scores, they too have not found many runs from the middle. Still, they do seem to have an attack capable of troubling teams at this level. Potentially, this promises to be a good contest, which will be watched by selection committee chairman Dilip Vengsarkar.
North Zone (from): Mithun Manhas (captain), Gautam Gambhir, Aakash Chopra, Ravneet Ricky, Yashpal Singh, Mahesh Rawat, Joginder Sharma, Gagandeep Singh, Ashish Nehra, Vishal Bhatia, Rajesh Sharma, Sachin Rana, Manvinder Bisla, Virat Kohli.
Sri Lanka A (from): Thilan Samaraweera (captain), Michael Vandort, Mahela Udawatte, Malintha Warnapura, Jehan Mubarak, Chamara Silva, Upul Chandana, Kaushal Silva, Rangana Herath, Akalanka Ganegama, Dhamika Prasad, Tharanga Lakshita, Ishara Amarasinghe, Kosala Kulasekhara, Jeevan Mendis.