The absence of star player M.S. Dhoni takes some sheen away from the knockout rounds of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, which commences here on Sunday.
With the ODI series against West Indies set to start in a week, Dhoni could have opted for some match-practice by turning out for Jharkhand.
On the sidelines of a training session at KSCA on Saturday, Jharkhand coach Rajiv Kumar explained why Dhoni gave it a miss. “Dhoni will not play for us in this tournament. He feels that it will not be fair for him to join us at this stage, given that the team has done so well and reached the quarterfinal stage in his absence. He does not want to upset the team balance. If he can find the time, Dhoni might come to the venue to cheer the team.”
Youngster Ishan Kishan will continue to lead Jharkhand, which takes on Maharashtra on Monday. On Sunday, a strong Mumbai starts as firm favourite over Plate group topper Bihar, while Delhi faces Haryana.
Andhra tackles Hyderabad in the fourth quarterfinal.
The likes of Rohit Sharma (Mumbai), Yuzvendra Chahal (Haryana) and Ambati Rayudu (Hyderabad) will look to use these fixtures to get into the groove ahead of the West Indies one-dayers. While batsmen Rohit and Rayudu will make their maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy appearances of the season, leg-spinner Chahal has turned out for his state in three group stage matches at Chennai.
Delhi skipper Gautam Gambhir has been in good form in this tournament, recording 386 runs at an average of just over 55. Bihar’s Babul Kumar, who has scored two fifties and two hundreds, is the leading run-scorer among the knockout sides. Mumbai’s top-order, which includes Rohit and the in-form Shreyas Iyer, bears a formidable look.
On the bowling front, Jharkhand’s left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem (21 wickets) stands as the second-highest wicket-taker, one behind Tamil Nadu’s Varun Chakravathi. Nadeem grabbed the spotlight when he recorded the best-ever List A figures, with an eight for 10 haul against Rajasthan last month. Nadeem missed his team’s practice session on Saturday, as he has travelled home to be with his pregnant wife. He will be back in time for Jharkhand’s match on Monday.
Sunday’s matches (Quarterfinals, 9 am start): Mumbai vs Bihar (Just Cricket ground), Delhi vs Haryana (M. Chinnaswamy Stadium)
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