Players back zonal Duleep Trophy format for better team bonding

Faiz Fazal and Akshay Wakhare feel a lack of team bonding in the same level as a state or a zonal team.

India Red beat India Green by an innings and 38 runs to lift the Duleep Trophy.   -  Sudhakara Jain

Akshay Wakhare took five wickets against a hapless India Green to help India Red win the Duleep Trophy on Saturday. The wicket did aid the bowlers to an extent at M. Chinnaswamy on Day 4, however, it wasn’t unplayable. Even Wakhare felt there was a 'lack of fight' from the India Green batsmen.

“They are a much better batting side, I don’t know what went wrong for them. They should have performed better,” he said.

Read: Akshay Wakhare five-for seals title for India Red

Faiz Fazal also admitted, “We didn’t bat well at all, from day one to be honest. The wicket was helping a little, but it is always there in the first session. There were no demons in the wicket...I don’t think 230 was a decent total. Today, we could see the ball doing a little bit and they bowled well, but was disappointed with our shot selection,” he said.

But both of them admitted the fightback may have been better. They also admitted a lack of connect with the team-mates.

Zonal or three-team format? 

Duleep Trophy, which began as zonal tournament in 1961-62, has undergone multiple changes. The current three-team format has been in existence since 2016-17 and has teams competing in a round-robin stage followed by a final. The teams — India Red, India Green and India Blue,  announced by the all-India selection committee just over a week before the tournament, meet a day before the tournament.

Naturally, both the players admitted to a lack of team bonding in the same level as a state or a zonal team.

“For Duleep Trophy, we meet a day before the tournament starts. Gelling around can get difficult. Also, you cannot force things (as captain) on everyone. If I am playing for Vidarbha, I can tell the boys, you have to do this. Here, it gets difficult. They may say no, we will try this and that,” India Green captain Fazal said.

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"I have been telling the boys here in the India Green that we should look to win the tournament, then the best can come from the players. If you try to play for yourself, I don’t think it works because you are being selfish. I am not saying that was there right now, but it can happen with anyone,” he reasoned.

Wakhare openly admitted he preferred the zonal format. “I still feel that the zonal is better because the players know each other and gel with each other soon. Here, you can’t because we are coming for the matches straightaway.”

“If you are playing for a zone, there are some senior players who can help you, who can tell you what needs to be done. Here, you have to do it on your own. I feel here, everyone is playing more individually. They are doing it for the team, but also for individual goals,” he added. 

While Fazal admitted there was a lack of emotional connect with the team, he was unsure if going back to zonal was the way ahead. “Playing for India Red, Green and Blue is a fair call. I think that is better. It would not make much difference,” he said.