Spin-friendly pitch awaits India Red, Blue in Duleep Trophy final

Gautam Gambhir-led India Blue will play Yuvraj Singh's India Red in the five-day Duleep Trophy final which heralds the packed domestic cricket season.

Yuvraj Singh Cheteshwar Pujara Duleep Trophy final 2016 press conference

India Red 's Yuvraj Singh and India Blue player Cheteshwar Pujara attend a press conference on the eve of the Duleep Trophy final, in Greater Noida on Friday.

Anil Kumble will be among those witnessing the Duleep Trophy final here with India Blue meeting India Red in the five-day contest which heralds the packed domestic cricket season.

In a symbolic welcome to Kumble, one of the finest bowlers the game has seen, the curator has laid out a spinner-friendly pitch at the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex. “The ball should turn,” said India Red captain Yuvraj Singh. The India Blue coach, Aashish Kapoor, put it simply, “It will turn.”

The pink ball to “turn” observation must annoy some and please some. The pitch, grazed as it appeared, holds the key to the duration of the match. A three-day fight or an extended one? Much would depend on how the batsmen shape against the ball in daylight and under floodlights.

“I honestly felt that the pink ball didn’t swing much and didn’t get old,” asserted Yuvraj. “It was coming on to the bat very nicely. I don’t know how it is going to play on a turning track. Hopefully this pitch might afford turn.”

Kapoor looked at it from the spinners’ perspective. “This is probably the experimental phase of the pink ball. Not many people know how it is going to behave. That is why before a Test series such an important tournament has been held.”

The coaches spent time with their slow bowlers, taking pains to explain the significance of variety. “I told the spinners to bowl at a slow pace, let the ball hang a bit if the pitch is flat. If there is help the bowler can push through the air bowl a little faster. You have to constantly read the situation and adapt,” noted India Red coach Narendra Hirwani.

The challenges created by the pink ball are many. As Kapoor observed, “Because of the glaze on the ball there is less turn for the finger spinners and whatever happens, happens for the wrist spinners and that too at night. It skids on a little bit more when there is dew or when it gets cooler. That is one thing which I have inferred or understood about this ball. It’s an experimental stage and (we have) one more experiment in this game.”

There were serious apprehensions regarding the pitch, prepared to help the spinners, keeping in mind the forthcoming series against New Zealand where India rightly looks to exploit the home advantage. “The matches we played so far, the pitches were grassy. The ball would maintain (colour mainly) on those wickets. Now if this a turning track, let’s see how the ball behaves. I think it will make a difference if it is a spinning track,” Hirwani said.

As long as the pitch behaves, provides true bounce, the teams would enjoy their cricket.

What if the surface plays dodgy and challenges the batsmen, especially when the colour of the ball becomes a tricky issue? Cheteshwar Pujara said: “It’s challenging to pick the ball under lights but it’s not that you can’t. Ultimately you have to watch the ball and play. At times you have to accept the fact that somethings might be challenging because when you are batting at 2 pm you are able to sight the ball really well. Even in Test cricket if you are batting in the first session and if the pitch is green you have to see through the new ball. If it’s a turning track the ball will spin. So you have to adjust to whatever is in front of you.”

The fear is the batsmen in this match may have to counter low bounce. As the match progresses, the low bounce could become a big monster to contend.

The teams (from):

India Red: Yuvraj Singh (Capt), Abhinav Mukund, Shikhar Dhawan, Sudip Chatterjee, Gurkeerat Singh, Ankush Bains (wk), Stuart Binny, Akshay Wakhare, Kuldeep Yadav, Amit Mishra, Nathu Singh, Anureet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Nitish Rana, Pradeep Sangwan

India Blue: Gautam Gambhir (Capt), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Siddhesh Lad, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Parvez Rasool, Suryakumar Yadav, Karn Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohit Sharma, Pankaj Singh, Abhimanyu Mithun, Sheldon Jackson, Hanuma Vihari.

Umpires: Anil Chaudhary and C. Shamsuddin; Third umpire: Nandan; Match Referee: Manu Nayyar.