Gautam Gambhir lost his way to the venue on Sunday but not his focus. He knows the importance of Duleep Trophy, which is now a pink-ball day-night affair. The competition does not involve the best players on the circuit, not even the second best, but Gambhir is not concerned.
“Every Duleep Trophy I have played most of the captains have said that you should look at your own individual performances but that’s not going to happen under me,” he announced on the eve of the match against India Red, led by Yuvraj Singh.
Gambhir, captain of the India Blue side, continued in his staccato style. “The most important thing is that we turn up tomorrow and turn up to win the tournament. That is how the game of cricket should be played rather than (look for) individual performances. It’s about winning the tournament. We are going to try and do everything possible to win the tournament.”
Not that India Red would be a mute spectator. Fresh from its thumping win over India Green in the opening match of the tournament, India Red boasts of the services of a batsman who could read the conditions best. Abhinav Mukund adapted quickly to the pink ball challenge and came up with scores of 77 and 169 to dominate the contest. Essentially, he played the waiting game, watched the ball on to his bat closely, and did not indulge in fancy strokeplay as some of his colleagues.
For Yuvraj, the failure in both the innings must add to the pressure of his comeback campaign. Obviously he needs to put bat to the ball more convincingly and this would make the contest interesting. A big score from Yuvraj can just be the platform to light up the tournament and enhance the quality of the fare in the middle.
Yuvraj can take a peep in his past forays in the Duleep Trophy and draw motivation from the 2003-04 final on his home turf in Mohali. Asked to prove his fitness by playing the final, Yuvraj came up with scores of 106 and 148 against East Zone and booked his place in the Indian team for the history-making tour of Pakistan a month later. He only grew in stature from that Duleep Trophy performance.
Gambhir brings a competitive flavour to the match. Having fallen out of favour of the national selectors, he can treat this stage as a stepping stone to craft his comeback. He is not going to lose this opportunity.
“This is what professional cricket is all about. The most important thing is if our mindset is about winning the tournament then it becomes easier. A game of cricket or tournament needs to be played in a certain way and that is about going out there and win. That’s what I have always focussed on in any game and any tournament and nothing different tomorrow,” Gambhir has his plans in place.
The teams have made some changes for the match. Leg-spinner Karn Sharma has been added to India Blue in place of an injured K. Monish while Pradeep Sangwan finds a spot in India Red in place of Abhimanyu Mithun, who moves over to India Blue as a replacement for Shardul Thakur. Mithun, however, is likely to miss this match on account of his wedding while Pujara is expected to make an appearance in the next round of the tournament.
India Red: Yuvraj Singh (capt.), Abhinav Mukund, K. S. Bharat, Sudip Chatterjee, Gurkeerat Singh, Ankush Bains, Arun Karthik, Akshay Wakhare, Kuldeep Yadav, Nathu Singh, Anureet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Nitish Rana, M. Ashwin and Pradeep Sangwan.
India Blue: Gautam Gambhir (capt.), Mayank Agarwal, Sheldon Jackson, Baba Aparajith, Siddhesh Lad, Dinesh Karthik, Parveez Rasool, Karn Sharma, Krishna Das, Surya Kumar Yadav, Mohit Sharma, Pankaj Singh, Abhimanyu Mithun, Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari.
Play starts at 2 p.m.
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