Duleep Trophy: Fascinating cricket on cards

The Duleep Trophy provides an opportunity for players on the fringes to impress selectors and get a nod to advance to the next stage.

India Green players along with Parthiv Patel during a practice session on the eve of their Duleep Trophy match against India Red at NPR College Ground in Natham.   -  B. Jothi Ramalingam

The weather at Natham, a quiet village guarded by the Sirumalai Hills in southern Tamil Nadu, was capricious on Thursday. It drizzled, but the sun would peep out of the clouds teasingly; then it rained, and before long there was bight, glorious sunshine. 

Cricket, to be played at the lovely NPR College Ground, over the next three weeks could well be as unpredictable and therefore fascinating. The pink ball, the floodlights and what seems a sporting wicket, with evident shades of green, could spice things up in the Duleep Trophy, which begins on Friday, with India Green taking on India Red.

India Blue is the other team in the fray. The three will play each other before the final — a five-day affair — starting on September 4.

The five-decade-old tournament may no longer be that bridge between the domestic and international cricket — the IPL has taken its place — but much is still at stake for the men in white assembled at the NPR College ground.

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The next three weeks would provide opportunities for many of them to try to make it — or get back on — to the big stage. The fact that the senior squad is touring England and India A and B teams are in Andhra for an international quadrangular series, has helped the selectors to give chances to a wider pooler of players for this tournament.

Thankfully, the season-opener begins on a firmer foot this year than the last, when the tournament was scrapped only to be reinstated three days later, following the intervention of Sourav Ganguly, the head of the BCCI’s technical committee.

With Virat Kohli’s men not exactly having an Indian summer in the Old Blighty, at least a few players from across the three teams will be desperately keen to impress the selectors who have to pick teams for the last two Tests.

Among them will be the wicket-keeping captain of India Green Parthiv Patel, whose last Test was in South Africa earlier this year, and the India Red skipper Abhinav Mukund, who scored 81 in his last Test innings, against Sri Lanka at Galle a year ago.

It would be interesting to see how the younger, lesser-known men — India Red’s left-arm pacer Yarra Prithviraj, for instance — perform, too.

The teams (from)

India Green: Parthiv Patel (captain & wicket-keeper), Prashant Chopra, Priyank Panchal, Sudip Chatterjee, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Baba Indrajith, Vishnu Solanki, Jalaj Saxena, Aditya Sarvate, Vikas Mishra, K. Vignesh, Ankit Rajpoot, Ashok Dinda, Atit Sheth and Harpreet Singh Bhatia.

India Red: Abhinav Mukund (captain), Sanjay Ramaswamy, Ashutosh Singh, Baba Aparajith, Writtick Chatterjee, Bavanaka Sandeep, Akshay Wadkar (wicket-keeper), Shahbaz Nadeem, Mihir Hirwani, Parvez Rasool, Rajneesh Gurbani, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ishan Porel and Yarra Prithviraj.