The National selectors have had the toughest job in ensuring Duleep Trophy retains a semblance of competition in the Duleep Trophy which has reached the final stage.

An immensely depleted India Red meets India Blue, also hit by loss of players to the ongoing series against New Zealand `A’, in the title summit at the Ekana Stadium here from Monday.

The tournament has been severely dented by the poor scheduling of matches in rain-hit Uttar Pradesh, not to forget the clashing of the event with international commitments at home.

Very nearly struck off the domestic calendar by the Board, the Duleep Trophy, once recognised as a tournament just a rung below Test cricket, miraculously survived due to the intervention of Sourav Ganguly as head of the Technical Committee. Little did Ganguly realise that his gesture to help Duleep Trophy retain its exalted status on the domestic circuit would fall flat.

The tournament has been reduced to a second string competition and the absence of known players has only made it worse. India Red has lost Sudip Chatterjee, Priyank Panchal, Rishabh Pant, K. Gowtham and Karn Sharma to the India `A’ squad. The India Blue team will be without the services of Hanuma Vihari and Ankit Rajpoot.

The teams got accustomed to the venue, which must qualify as one of the best in the country even though it has not yet staged an international match. The pitch, prepared by veteran curator Daljit Singh, promises action with role specified for the batsmen and the bowlers.

Even as clouds hovered over the venue, Daljit was not perturbed. “This stadium has the best draining system in India. We would not lose play to rains,” he said.

Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik share a common drive. “It gives me an opportunity to test myself before the season. After this game I have to report to NCA (National Cricket Academy) for a fitness test, which means I am in the reckoning,” remarked Raina.

For Karthik, the match is a chance to “Showcase my form. I am looking forward to it with the same intensity I would have for an international match. It remains an important match for all those who will find a place in their respective playing eleven. I am excited.”


India Red : Dinesh Karthik (Capt-wk), Prithvi Shaw, Akhil Herwadkar, Ishank Jaggi, Rahul Singh, B. Indrajith, Suryakumar Yadav, Washington Sundar, Vijay Gohil, Basil Thampi, C.V. Milind, Ashok Dinda and Sidharth Kaul.

India Blue : Suresh Raina (Capt), Samit Gohel, Abhimanyu Easwaran, K. S. Bharath, Manoj Tiwari, Deepak Hooda, Ishaan Kishan( wk), Akshay Wakhare, Bharghav Bhat, Ishant Sharma, Pankaj Rao, Jaydev Unadkat, Sagun Kamat and Pankaj Singh.

Umpires : Anil Chaudhary and Nitin Menon; Match Referee: Manu Nayyar.

Match starts at 1.30 p.m.