Indian cricket may be bristling with life against Sri Lanka, but for the rest, it will be a fresh beginning in the Duleep Trophy — flood-light cricket with pink ball — at the Ekana Stadium from Thursday.
Even though it sprang to life all of a sudden as the season-opener, any first class cricket is welcome for the aspirants who are keen to be ready when they are called for national duty.
It does not matter that the matches are not telecast or that a mere handful of spectators come to watch the action.
“There is no crowd for domestic cricket. We are quite used to it,’’ said Dinesh Karthik, who will be leading India Red team in the absence of Abhinav Mukund, reportedly down with dengue.
Karthik said that Prithvi Shaw and Varun Aaron were the replacements for Abhinav Mukund and Dhawal Kulkarni, from the original team.
Parthiv Patel, the captain of India Green was quite happy to face the ‘big challenge of pink ball’ cricket.
“Not many have played pink ball. It was played last year. We have to get used to pink and see how it is,’’ said Parthiv.
Quite enthused by the differentiation of the zonal system and the new system of making balanced teams with a bunch of 45 players, irrespective of their allegiance, Parthiv said that it was a good idea to give a chance to the best players to stay in the reckoning for national selection.
“In the zonal system, there used to be about 75 players, and now we have 45’’, he said as a matter of fact.
Irrespective of the system, it is a platform for the aspirants to assert their class and stake their claim in the higher echelons of the game, not worrying about the ‘’loyalty’’ factor.
“It is the start of the domestic season. It is the cream of Indian talent, and they all want to do their best’’, said Parthiv.
“DuleepTrophy has always been important. The season opener sets the trend for you and it gives you an indication of form and fitness. Almost everyone who performed well last season have been picket for this edition and it is time for them to show their mettle and be ready for the season’’, Parthiv elaborated.
More than the players, the stadium will be put to a stringent test, albeit only by the two teams. The pitch and outfield looked top class, but there was plenty of work to be done on the stadium before it is showcased to the world. At the moment, it is an oasis in the desert, with its green turf.
The first four-day match will be followed by the match between India Red and India Blue in Kanpur, followed by Blue meeting Green. The final, a five-day match, is scheduled to be played here at Ekana from September 25.
India Red: Dinesh Karthik (captain), Priyank Panchal, Sudip Chatterjee, Ishank Jaggi, Ambati Rayudu, Rishabh Pant (wk), Baba Indrajith, K. Gowtham, Karn Sharma, Basil Thampi, Varun Aaron, Ashok Dinda, Rahul Singh, CV Milind, Prithvi Shaw.
India Green: Parthiv Patel (captain), Murali Vijay, Ravikumar Samarth, Prashant Chopra, Shreyas Iyer, Karun Nair, Ankit Bawne, Shahbaz Nadeem, Parvez Rasool, Navdeep Saini, Mohammed Siraj, Sidharth Kaul, Mayank Dagar, Nitin Saini, Aniket Choudhary.
Umpires: Anil Dhandekar, Viren Sharma.
Referee: Chinmaya Sharma.
Hours of play: 1.30 p.m. start.