Duleep Trophy: Domestic season gets underway as India Blue takes on Green

Shubman Gill’s India Blue takes on Faiz Fazal’s India Green in the Duleep Trophy opener on Saturday.

Gearing up: India Blue speedsters Aniket Choudhary, Diwesh Pathania and Tushar Deshpande, along with batsman Ankeet Bawne (second from left) at a nets session on Friday.   -  N. SUDARSHAN

The Duleep Trophy no longer boasts of a distinct identity, stripped as it was three years ago of its regional zone-wise format and replaced with a tournament which distributed the country’s best players into three different sides. Even the experiment with the pink ball to give players a taste of ‘day-night Tests’ has now been shelved.

But a performance in the event still carries a certain heft. As former Delhi cricketer and coach Bhaskar Pillai said on the eve of this year’s opener between his side India Blue and India Green at the Just Cricket Ground near here, “it is only one step away from a national call.”

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That the 2019-20 edition will be ushering in the domestic season gives it a different dimension. Season-openers can rarely be seen in isolation as big performances by players right at the start can potentially have far reaching consequences.

It is against this backdrop that the Shubman Gill-led India Blue will take on Faiz Fazal’s India Green in the first of three round-robin matches from Saturday. “We would love to win the tournament,” said Fazal, who has the experience of playing Duleep Trophy in the previous avatar too.

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Tough for players

“It’s tough for players to come in a day prior and get together and play. There is the emotional aspect also... you do not win the competition for your State. But ultimately as professionals you need to adapt.”

“This is a prestigious tournament, important for players if they want to play higher. But you need to think of the team as well. As a batsmen if you just want to get a hundred, it may not work sometimes. Rather, if you think of the need to win the game for your side, it will definitely come. As a team we want to go in with that frame of mind,” added the 33-year-old.

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Format no hindrance

For 19-year-old Gill, very much a cricketer of this generation, the format was no hindrance and he said that the very name of the tournament should be enough motivation. “This is the format of the day,” he stated.

“I have played Deodhar [Trophy] etc.. So I know the red, blue and green format. I spoke to Jalaj Saxena, the senior-most person in our team, and his advice will be crucial. But it shouldn’t be difficult to get the team going. Duleep Trophy is a big tournament. So everyone is switched on.”

Funnily, on match eve, a prominent player found it hard to recognise a fellow teammate during the nets. He wasn’t even sure about Saturday's opponents. The hope is now for such instances to remain mere aberrations.

The teams (from):

India Blue: Shubman Gill (Capt.), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rajat Patidar, Ricky Bhui, Anmolpreet Singh, Ankeet Bawane, Snell Patel, Shreyas Gopal, Saurabh Kumar, Jalaj Saxena, Tushar Deshpande, Basil Thampi, Aniket Choudhary, Diwesh Pathania and Ashutosh Amar.

India Green: Faiz Fazal (Capt.), Akshath Reddy, Dhruv Shorey, Siddhesh Lad, Priyam Garg, Akshdeep Nath, Rahul Chahar, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Ankit Rajpoot, Ishan Porel, Tanveer-ul-Haq, Akshay Wadkar, Rajesh Mohanty, Milind Kumar.

Match starts at 9.30 a.m.

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