South to start as favourites against East
Chennai: History is stacked in favour of eleven-time winners South Zone as they get ready to take on Central Zone in the semifinal of the Duleep Trophy cricket tournament, starting in Chennai from Saturday.
After a 13-year drought, South captain Subramaniam Badrinath led the team to victory at the same venue in 2009, when they beat the mighty West Zone.
Central have won the title on four occasions.
As has been the case in the past, Central do not boast of as many Indian players as South.
But the team, led by legspinner Piyush Chawla, has a bundle of youthful talents, including Robin Bist and Rituraj Singh of Rajasthan, whose performances in the Ranji Trophy this season made them automatic choices in the zonal team.
Former India opener Akash Chopra, though, had commented that the selectors have not given a fair deal to Rajasthan despite the state winning the Ranji Trophy for the second consecutive time.
The tournament, which used to be the main selection event for the national team in the past, has lost a bit of sheen due to changes in the format.
In the recent past, only a few players have made it to the national squad based on their performances in the Duleep Trophy.
It now remains to be seen as to how the selectors would go about spotting talents for the national team. With a couple of middle order slots like to become vacant in about six to seven months, the players have greater chances of being noticed by the selectors.
In this regard superlative performances from the likes of Badrinath, Stuart Binny, wicketkeeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik, Pragyan Ojha and Rituraj Singh will certainly brighten their chances.
Binny was seen as a one-day specialist after his solid performances in the T-20, including the IPL, and limited overs matches, but in recent times he excelled with the bat in the longer version of the game too.
Likewise, Karthik has been waiting in the wings for a long time despite having come up with solid scores in the domestic tournaments. As for Ojha, he had rarely failed on the international scene and he too has best chances to make the Indian team.
Murali Vijay has been ruled out of the South Zone side as he is at the NCA for rehabilitation. On all counts, the South-Central semi final would continue to be played before empty stands as was seen during the Ranji final between Rajasthan and Tamil Tamil Nadu last month.
As for the pitch at Chepauk, the host association and the Indian cricket administrators have earned the wrath of critics for refusing to prepare a pacy wicket.
With so much of criticism, the wicket is not sure to change its character but would remain batsmen-friendly with slow bounce.
It was also debated hugely ahead of tomorrow`s match by former national and Tamil Nadu state players as to why such a big match is held here in such wickets.
South Zone: Subramaniam Badrinath (c), Amit Verma, Stuart Binny, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Abhimanyu Mithun, Pragyan Ojha, Syed Quadri, Robin Uthappa, Jagannathan Kaushik, KP Apanna, Sony Cheruvathur, Yo Mahesh, Abhinav Mukund, Manish Pandey, Akshath Reddy.
Central Zone: Piyush Chawla (c), Mohnish Mishra, Naman Ojha (wk), Tanmay Srivastava, Vineet Saxena, Mohammad Kaif, Jalaj Saxena, Ashish Yadav, Ranjit Paradkar, Robin Bisht, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, T Sudhindra, Pankaj Singh, Rituraj Singh, Parvinder Singh.