Since my last post wherein I discussed the South Zone and West Zone teams for the Duleep Trophy, Central Zone announced its team for the Duleep Trohpy. The first match in this knockout-format tournament starts today, 22 Jan, in Bangalore.
For South Zone, I expect the playing XI to be:
Abhinav Mukund, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Dravid, V.V.S. Laxman (captain), S. Badrinath (vice-captain), Dinesh Karthik (wk), R. Ashwin, P. Pragyan Ojha, L. Balaji, S. Sreeshanth, R. Vinay Kumar.
It is a good line-up with Abhivav Mukund expecting to shine brighter in the national radar as he has done in Chennai! Robin Uthappa will continue an impressive season after going off the boil subsequent to the Australia tour in 2008. While Rahul Dravid and Laxman will use this as match practice ahead of the New Zealand tour, Badrinath should use this opportunity to force his way into reckoning for the New Zealand tour.
The bowling looks solid on the back of Sreesanth’s 7-fer in the match in his comeback match for Kerala. But that was in the Ranji Plate match against a weak Jharkand. Whether he can cut it on the bigger stage remains to be seen! With the fast bowling stocks looking quite healthy in India at the moment, Sreesanth and L. Balaji have their work cut out for them!
The Central Zone squad is dominated by players from Uttar Pradesh (finalists in the Ranji). The CZ squad (in possible batting order):
Shivakant Shukla, Tanmay Srivastava, Yere Goud, Mohammad Kaif (capt), Faiz Fazal, Naman Ojha (wk), Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Murali Kartik, Pankaj Singh, Anureet Singh.
Subs: Umesh Yadav, Robin Bist, Parvinder Singh, Jalaj Saxena.
Pankaj Singh was in the India Test side to tour Australia last year. Piyush Chawla has played many a game for India and left-arm spinner, Murali Kartik played for India not too long ago. So Central may feel that they have a better bowling attack. Mohammed Kaif should use this to stake his, perhaps rightful, claim on the big stage in Indian cricket!
Although Central have competent players like Mohammed Kaif, Murali Kartik, Pitush Chawla, Yere Goud (former Karnataka player and prolific scorer), et al, South Zone should win this stage to move on to bigger and better things in the tournament.
But then stranger things have happened, as they say!