ALL ATTENTION will be on Rudra Pratap Singh as Central Zone take on holders West on the opening day of the Deodhar Trophy inter-zonal limited-overs tournament at the Chinnaswamy stadium here on Friday.
Chairman of selectors Dilip Vengsarkar will watch how the left-armer from Uttar Pradesh shapes up before finalising the squad for the Test series against South Africa. Singh missed the tri-series Down Under due to a hamstring injury. He played in two one-dayers for Uttar Pradesh in the Central Zone tournament early this month.
With almost no slots in the team up for grabs, the tournament may prove to be a tough grind for those trying to catch the selectors' attention.
Most of the triumphant India one-day players will be in action a week upon returning from Australia as there is not much ahead for them till after end of the Indian Premier League in early June. Some of these include Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir for North; Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik and S Sreesanth for South; Suresh Raina, Praveen Kumar and Piyush Chawla for Central; Rohit Sharma and Munaf Patel for West and Manoj Tiwary for East.
Both West and Central were forced to practice at the 'B' ground as the main ground was taken over by the Bangalore IPL team, Royal Challengers for a promotional photo shoot. It seemed that IPL had already begun to take precedence over the Deodhar Trophy and players were left to fend for themselves when it came to practice facilities. The pitch was watered just before West used it in the morning and less than ideal. "The ball was flying all over the place. What if someone got seriously hit?," asked a West player. "Even the outfield was uneven," he said.
To add to the confusion neither team knew if the fixture was a day match or a day-night game. While Bangalore is to host three matches, the other seven matches are scheduled at Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam which do not have flood lights. For the sake of uniformity the BCCI decided to change Bangalore matches into day games, keeping the players guessing.
West Zone came to know this was a day match late on Wednesday evening while some players from Central were still in the dark.
West Zone: Wasim Jaffer (captain), Ajit Agarkar (vice-captain), Ajinkya Rahane, Parthiv Patel (wk), Y Venugopala Rao, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Abhishek Nayar, Mohnish Parmar, Iqbal Abdulla, Munaf Patel, Sandip Maniar, Siddarth Trivedi, Kedar Jadhav and Pinal Shah.
Central Zone: Md Kaif (captain), Murali Kartik, Suresh Raina, Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Tanmay Srivastava, Faiz Fazal, Praveen Gupta, Sandeep Singh, RP Singh, Deepak Yadav, Naman Ojha (wk), Himalaya Sagar, Ravi Jangid, Rajesh Kanojia.
Deodhar Trophy schedule (all day games):
March 14: Central vs West (Bangalore); East vs South (Hyderabad).
March 17: Central vs North (Bangalore); East vs West (Hyderabad).
March 20: Central vs South (Hyderabad); North vs West (Visakhapatnam).
March 23: Central vs East (Hyderabad); North v South (Visakhapatnam).
March 26: East vs North (Visakhapatnam); South vs West (Bangalore).
Strars in East vs South tie
There will be no shortage of stars when East Zone take on South on the first day of the all-star series for the Deodhar Trophy. Sourav Ganguly brings glamour to the East while the South is packed with India cricketers. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman from the Test set-up and the likes of Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik and Sreesanth from the one-day squad ensure that memories of India's recent triumph in Australia will be close at hand.
The two teams square off at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Uppal, Hyderabad on Friday. It will be a return to cricket for some of the stars who have been involved in one promotion event after the other for their respective IPL teams.
East Zone: Laxmi Ratan Shukla (captain), Sourav Ganguly, Anustup Majumdar, Arindam Das, Manoj Tiwary, Ranadeb Bose, Wriddhiman Saha, Shib Shankar Paul, Ireash Saxena, Haladhar Das, PR Sinha, Saurabh Tiwary, Ishank Jaggi, Manish Vardhan, SS Rao, Deeraj Goswami, S. Purkayastha.
South Zone: S Badrinath (captain), Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, M Vijay, S Vidyut, C Raghu, Saurabh Bandekar, Bharat Chipli, PN Sarvesh Kumar, Gnaneswara Rao, Doddapaneni Kalyanakrishna, Pragyan Ojha, Sreesanth, Vinay Kumar.