New Delhi: The BCCI’s maiden tryst with day/night pink ball cricket will reach its business end when a clutch of current national team players will have their little on-field duels with India Blue meeting India Red in the Duleep Trophy final starting on Saturday.
With Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara in the India ‘Blue’ side led by Gautam Gambhir and Shikhar Dhawan wielding his willow for the Yuvraj Singh-led ‘Reds’, a run-feast can be expected at the Shahid Vijay Singh Pathik Stadium which has produced a belter during the round-robin games. Expect some smaller battles within the big battle ahead of the New Zealand. Rohit Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara might be battling for a single middle-order slot while Ravindra Jadeja will also pull up his socks with young chinaman Kuldeep Yadav, who has been the standout bowler in the tournament so far.
Not to forget Shikhar Dhawan, who is also fighting with KL Rahul and Murali Vijay for a slot at the top of the order. The absence of Test captain and India’s reigning superstar Virat Kohli will certainly take some sheen out of the grand finale. Kohli is on a much-needed break with a long and arduous season ahead of him. After the initial baptism by fire with 17 wickets falling on Day 1 of the first match, the batsmen have enjoyed a great time under lights with the pink ball hardly making much of a difference. Add to it, the dew factor, which has made batting easy under lights for the batsmen.
Abhinav Mukund, Sudeep Chatterjee have done well for the Red side but it will be Shikhar Dhawan, who will take this match with a great deal of seriousness. Irrespective of the colour of the ball, the Delhi left-hander must be feeling a bit of pressure with KL Rahul and Murali Vijay, two technically better equipped openers also in the national team. Rahul has shown a great deal of consistency and Vijay has had a solid presence at the top of the order.
In this scenario, a good performance in the Duleep will increase his confidence and also keep him in the scheme of things as far as the playing XI of the Test is concerned. Skipper Virat Kohli has already said that he wants Rohit, a potential game-changer to get more Test matches and a big score will enable him to get the vote of confidence from the Test captain. Pujara on the otherhand would like to pile on runs as he has done with monotonic ease at the domestic level. Another century after the 166 against Green team in the earlier match will only boost his confidence.
The same cannot be said about the two veterans Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir. While Gambhir has had a good tournament with three consecutive half-centuries in three innings, he does not look like being in the selectors’ scheme of things at the moment as far as national team is concerned. Ditto for Yuvraj, who has done precious little in the two innings in the first game and even a big innings may not change a lot in near future as far as longer format is concerned. The fast bowlers also don’t have much to play for as the first team speedsters have been given rest considering the workload that they may have to share in coming months.
But Kuldeep with 13 wickets and ability to bowl the wrong one effortlessly will be keenly watched by the selectors who will be naming the New Zealand squad on Monday.