West Zone favourites in Duleep semifinal | india | Hindustan Times
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West Zone favourites in Duleep semifinal

india Updated: Jan 26, 2011 00:23 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Hindustan Times
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With just over a fortnight left for this year's biggest sporting extravaganza - the World Cup, the country seems to have already shifted to the limited-overs mould in which a four-day game would seem to be a drag.

Add to it the fact that the next four months would be all about the World Cup, followed by the Indian Premier League, and there is hardly anything in terms of a reward for those proving their mettle in the longer format on the domestic circuit.

The Duleep Trophy semifinal between defending champions West Zone and North Zone begins at the Motibaug Stadium here on Wednesday in that backdrop and the players seem to be digging into their reserves of motivation as they prepare for the battle ahead.

Both teams held extended net sessions on Tuesday, looking to figure out the best possible combination since most of the seniors have opted out due to niggles or injuries. Rohit Sharma and Parthiv Patel of West and Ishant Sharma of North added to that list on Monday night, opening up few more spots in the starting XI.

While Rohit and Patel were tired after returning from South Africa on Monday afternoon, North skipper Amit Mishra did not give any clear reason for Ishant's absence. Sangram Atitkar replaced Rohit in the West squad while North added Vikas Mishra and Suraj Yadav to their 15-member roaster.

But both captains opted to look at things positively, saying the absence of the big stars would provide opportunity for the youngsters to gather experience. "It is a good opportunity for youngsters to shine," said West skipper Wasim Jaffer. The former India opener insisted that inter-zonal matches were the real test of talent and he was confident that the youngsters would live up the challenge.

The absence of the star players notwithstanding, the hosts should begin as the favourites with Jaffer, the reliable Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravindra Jadeja beefing up their batting on a track that is known to have something for bowlers all through the game. On the other hand, Mishra will have to tackle his own inexperience as a leader to guide the team.