Blue and Green to battle in virtual semifinal

With India Red already through to the final, the last of the three round-robin four-day matches commences in Greater Noida on Sunday.

Suresh Raina, as his India Blue counterpart Gautam Gambhir, leads a bunch of aspirants who are part of a long waiting-list to make it to the national team.   -  PTI

There is no clear favourite in what is virtually a semifinal to find the challenger to India Red in Duleep Trophy this season. The last of the three round-robin four-day matches commences at the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex here on Sunday with India Green and India Blue looking for a maiden victory.

For the record, Red is already through to the title clash with seven points. Having played one match each, Blue has a point while Green is yet to open its account. Should the weather hold, an even contest is in the offing.

Not so long ago, Duleep Trophy was considered the highest form of first-class cricket in the country. It was indeed a matter of pride to play in the competition.

This year, it was good idea to test the pink ball in a four-day game in this year’s Duleep Trophy, considering the talks of efforts to make Test cricket ‘watchable’ under lights. Post the Australia-New Zealand pink-ball Test last November, the Board was keen to explore such a possibility at home.

These are still early days in that direction and the feedback and suggestions from the players will count for a lot in days to come. In the upcoming contest, Green will have a slight edge over Blue since it spent more time in the middle in its first match against Red. The bowlers from Blue are yet to get an opportunity to use the pink ball that has more glaze, swings more than the white ball and tends to skid more off the surface.

As Green’s Parthiv Patel puts it, “Obviously the seam is different than that of the red ball; it’s moving slightly more than the red ball. And then towards the end (of day’s play) due to the dew, it skids and comes on to the bat, unlike the red ball that becomes softer.”

Blue’s Mohit Sharma provides a pace bowler’s perspective and says, “With the pink ball, the glaze doesn’t go and it doesn’t become old or get better (for the bowler).”

If Green will be reinforced with the arrival of Murali Vijay and Jaspreet Bumrah, Blue will have the services of Cheteshwar Pujara and Abhimanyu Mithun, though the Karnataka speedster was initially named as part of the 15-member Red squad. The two left-handed skippers, Green’s Suresh Raina and Blue’s Gautam Gambhir, lead a bunch of aspirants who are part of a long waiting-list to make it to the national team.

After all, those who are part of the present India ‘A’ team are expected to get preference should there be a need to replace a member of the current Test squad as India prepares to hold 13 Tests at home this season.

With the far more meaningful Ranji Trophy season barely a month away, most of those in the reckoning for a place in Indian teams, in different formats, are already looking past Duleep Trophy.