South Zone looking to regain Duleep Trophy after 13 years
South Zone will be seeking to regain the Duleep Trophy cricket title they last won 13 years ago when they face West Zone in the five-day final commencing at the M A Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Thursday.cricket Updated: Feb 04, 2009 16:25 IST
South Zone will be seeking to regain the Duleep Trophy cricket title they last won 13 years ago when they face West Zone in the five-day final commencing at the M A Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Thursday.
With both the finalists boasting of strong batting line-up, the bowlers will have a major role to play on a pitch that was described as dry and would aid spin in the latter part of the game.
South Zone again will be without an injured V V S Laxman but opening batsman Murali Vijay, who has been in form, has returned to replace young Abhinav Mukund.
The only setback for South Zone, and nobody minds, is the absence of new ball bowler Laxmipathy Balaji who flew out to Sri Lanka earlier this week as a replacement for injured Munaf Patel to join the Indian ODI squad.
Even without Balaji, who has been replaced by Robin D'Souza (Goa), the South bowling attack still has enough teeth with fast bowler Santhakumaran Sreesanth and leg-spinner Mirrupurri Suresh expected to play the lead roles.
Suresh, in particular, has had an excellent tournament with 12 wickets in two matches, including six for 84 against Central Zone in the opening fixture at Bangalore.
In batting too, South boasts of a strong line-up with skipper Subramaniam Badrinath, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik and Rahul Dravid all scoring a century apiece.
While Dravid scored back-to-back centuries in two matches to underline his return to form, Karthik distinguished himself with two centuries against Central Zone.
"Obviously, we will miss Balaji, but we are planning to go in with five bowlers and if our batting fires, then nobody can stop us," said Badrinath. "The pitch looks dry and is likely to take turn as the match progresses."
West are also without several key players who all are currently on India duty in Sri Lanka. The presence of Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja and Zaheer Khan would have certainly boosted West's chances, but with youngsters chipping in, they still have a line-up capable of pulling off victory in the final.
The spotlight would be on the likes of batsmen Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, both of whom displayed top form in the recently-concluded Ranji Trophy tournament as also new ball bowler Dhawal Kulkarni.
With skipper Waseem Jaffer and Parthiv Patel weighing in with their experience, West would be going into the game with quiet confidence.
Left-arm spinner Rajesh Pawar has also been a revelation following his eight-wicket haul against East Zone in the semi-finals.
"Both teams have strong batting line-up and I feel the bowlers will make a difference. I am confident that we will do well in this match," said Jaffer.
West have won the trophy outright 13 times, the last success coming in the 2005-06 season while South have been outright winners on 12 occasions. The hosts last won the trophy in 1995-96.
South Zone: S Badrinath (captain), Murali Vijay, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Dravid, Dinesh Karthik (wicketkeeper), Ravichandran Ashwin, Shadab Jakati, S Sreesanth, Vinay Kumar, Saurav Bandekar, Robin D'Souza, M Suresh, Anoop Pai, Rohan Prem and Abhinav Mukund
West Zone: Wasim Jaffer (captain), Parthiv Patel (wicketkeeper), Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Kedar Jadhav, Bhavik Thakker, Ramesh Powar, Rajesh Pawar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Siddarth Trivedi, Samad Fallah, Ajitesh Argal, Azharuddin Bilakhia, Abhishek Nayar and Ameya Shrikhende
Umpires: Marias Eramus (South Africa) and Amish Saheba (India)
Third umpire: Shahvir Tarapore (India)
Match Referee: Sunil Chaturvedi (India)