He may be out of the reckoning for national duty for more than a year, but the India Blue skipper Suresh Raina was quite happy about Uttar Pradesh hosting the Duleep Trophy cricket tournament for the second year in a row.

On the eve of his team’s first match against India Red which beat Green in Lucknow in the opening match, the seasoned Raina said that it was a good opportunity for young players like AR Eswaran, Ishan Singh etc. to make a mark.

“We are looking forward to the match. All matches at all levels are important. Even though we are not sure about the availability of players or their replacements, am sure everything will fall in place soon,’’ said Raina.

The former India all-rounder gave credit to the groundsmen who had ‘worked very hard’ to get the pitch ready in short notice, even as he appreciated the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA) for taking up the challenge to host Duleep Trophy. Greater Noida had hosted the tournament last year under floodlights.

With an unusually hard outfield and a firm pitch, Green Park could live up to its reputation over the years of being a batsman’s paradise. It will be interesting to see how the pink ball behaves under the floodlights in these conditions, even though it was intriguing to see some of the players using the white ball during practice in the evening.

The local media queried Raina about his meeting with Sachin Tendulkar.

He responded cheerfully by saying that it was important to ‘’meet God’’ and that he got “ ashirwad’’ .

The India Red skipper Dinesh Karthik, who had scored a century and a half century on a tricky pitch at the Ekana Stadium in Lucknow said that his team was looking forward to maintaining the tempo.

“The conditions here will be a lot better. It was a good effort by our team in the first match, especially in the second innings,’’ said Karthik.

He hastened to add that he had not seen the pitch so far, but felt sure that it would “be slightly better than Lucknow’’.

The dashing batsman, Karthik also clarified that all the players who have been selected to play for the India-A team against New Zealand in Vijayawada would figure in this match and that he was “looking forward to a good game’’.

After this match, India Red may lose quite a few players before the final, but that would be a great opportunity for the replacements who walk into the final of a Duleep Trophy.

For the moment, India Red would be keen to maintain the momentum and capitalise on another chance to express its strong cricket.

The teams (from)

India Red: Dinesh Karthik (captain), Rishabh Pant, Rahul Singh Gahlaut, Sudip Chatterjee, Ashoke Dinda, Karn Sharma, Baba Indrajith,

Basil Thampi, Priyank Panchal, Ishank Jaggi, CV Milind, Vijay Gohil, Ambati Rayudu, Prithvi Shaw.

India Blue: Suresh Raina (captain), Abhimanyu Eswaran, Manoj Tiwary, Jayant Yadav, Bhargav Bhatt, Deepak Jagbir Hooda, Vijay Shankar, KS Bharat, Ankit Rajpoot, Sagul Kamat, Ishant Sharma, Samit Gohil, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishan Kishan.

Referee: V. Narayanan Kutty.

Umpires: Yeshwant Barde and Navdeep Singh.

Play starts at 1.30 p.m.