Buoyed by Saha, East have North on the radar

Mishra's boys will look to halt East's giant-killing run in Duleep Trophy. Khurram Habib reports.

cricket Updated: Feb 04, 2012 01:09 IST
Khurram Habib
Khurram Habib
Hindustan Times

The East Zone side that arrived for nets at the Ferozshah Kotla on Friday morning set the media abuzz. The presence of Wriddhiman Saha, one of the few positives from the disastrous Test series Down Under, had caused those ripples.

It is usually taken for granted that a Test player will lead the side, especially in starless teams like East Zone. But Saha, who will play the Duleep Trophy tie against North beginning Saturday, made it clear that he needs to concentrate more on his wicket-keeping skills than leading a side that beat West Zone under Natraj Behera to get here.

Later in the day, that buzz was missing when the home team — North Zone — came for practice. Perhaps, it was because their practice timing coincided with India's T20 game in Melbourne or there is just one India star, or hopeful — skipper Amit Mishra — in the squad. https://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/04_02_12_pg20a.jpg

The latter reason is expected to play a key role in this turning out to be an affair neglected by cricket fans.

While East have had enough time together --- about 10 days that included a match --- North got together for their first session only on Thursday evening. They've had no time to gel.

North conundrum
So skipper Mishra, who's been inspiring in his captaincy and performance throughout the Ranji season (he scored over 350 runs and took 23 wickets), should face difficulty while picking the eleven.

While his pace battery is almost settled, with Pradeep Sangwan, Parvinder Awana and Harshal Patel forming a lethal pack, batting demands some questions. Shikhar Dhawan and Rahul Dewan are the openers but most others are late middle-order batsmen, so stability at No 3 and No 4 can be affected. Mishra has no worries. “I already know most of these players. We play regularly against each other,” he reasoned.

Not that the No 3 and 4 slots will bring about the traditional virtues of technique and finesse. This is a limited-over season, the IPL auction takes place today and one-day events are lined up, and India don't play a Test match till later this year.

Any performance here, keeping in mind four days of patience, will not be rewarded in the near future barring an opportunity to play the Duleep final. So, you might get to see a lot of cameos and pursuit of higher economy rates. If that happens, it'll be sad four days of cricket.

Delhi, who bowed out in the league phase of Ranji, carry maximum clout with six players and that will be helpful as they know the ground well. The pitch has a green tinge but is expected to help batsmen.https://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/HTEditImages/Images/04_02_12_pg20b.jpg

Fancied South Zone face Central
History is stacked in favour of eleven-time winners South Zone as they get ready to take on Central Zone in their semifinal.

After a 13-year drought, Subramaniam Badrinath led South to victory at the same venue in 2009. Central have won the title on four occasions.

As has been the case in the past, Central do not boast of as many Indian players as South.

But the team, led by Piyush Chawla, has a bundle of youthful talents, including Robin Bist and Rituraj Singh of Rajasthan, who did well in Ranji Trophy.

With PTI inputs

First Published: Feb 03, 2012 23:24 IST