Vijay Hazare Trophy: TN gears up for Gujarat challenge

Despite the absence of a string of top players like R. Ashwin, Abhinav Mukund, Murali Vijay busy with national duty, and quality young bowlers, Tamil Nadu has emerged quite competitive.

Dinesh Karthik had an outing to remember during the league stage of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.   -  Photo: Biswaranjan Rout

The aspirants will continue to exhibit their wares in the on-going Vijay Hazare trophy one-day tournament, even as Indian cricket stays busy with an engrossing battle against the Aussies in the Test series.

After a long spell of league matches among 28 teams in four groups, and a week-long break for recuperation, the knock-out starts with the quarterfinals featuring Tamil Nadu and Gujarat at the Palam ground and the undefeated Karnataka against Baroda at the Ferozeshah Kotla on Sunday.

It has been an excellent platform for the players to stay in the reckoning for national selection, particularly for the eight-nation Champions Trophy to be played in England and Wales from June 1 to 18. There have already been many sparkling performances with Ruturaj Gaikwad of Maharashtra and Dinesh Karthik of Tamil Nadu topping the batting chart with 401 and 397 runs respectively.

Wicket-keeper batsman Parthiv Patel, the Gujarat captain, has not been far behind with 324 runs from six innings and nine dismissals, including two stumpings. Of course, Karthik has been staking his claims for a specialist batsman slot in the national squad for some time, even though he has done well as a wicket keeper as well, with seven dismissals. The Tamil Nadu skipper Vijay Shankar will also be keen to assert his talent and tenacity, along with a bunch of quality batsmen.

Despite the absence of a string of top players like R. Ashwin, Abhinav Mukund, Murali Vijay busy with national duty, and quality young bowlers, Tamil Nadu has emerged quite competitive. Among the top wicket-takers, Aswin Crist with 16 wickets has been able to propel Tamil Nadu forward and so have Akshay Karnewar (Vidarbha), Shahbaz Nadeem (Jharkhand) Jagdish Zope and Shrikant Mundhe for Maharashtra, Jasprit Bumrah and Rujul Bhatt for Gujarat and Prasidh Krishna for Karnataka, with more than a dozen wickets each.

The former India captain Mahender Singh Dhoni has been in the thick of domestic action, mentoring the Jharkhand team, and has scored 242 runs with nearly a 100 per cent strike rate from five innings apart from six catches.

It has been raining in the Capital for the last three days but there is a bright sunshine forecast for the next two days. The next quarterfinals, featuring group ‘A’ topper Vidarbha and Jharkhand apart from Bengal and Maharashtra will be played on March 15. The semifinals and final will be played over the following three days.

A cricket feast is in store for the Capital’s cricket lovers.