From being treated a rung below Test cricket, the Duleep Trophy, a competition for zonal teams, has been demoted to India Red, India Green and India Blue identity, struggling to justify the status of a competition named after one of the early stalwarts of the game — K.S. Duleepsinhji.
Duleepsinhji was dogged by poor health which restricted his cricket activities and the malady has come to afflict one of the premier tournaments of the country.
The redeeming feature is the pink-ball experiment that marks this year’s Duleep Trophy to be played at the Shahid Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex here from Tuesday.
Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina, seeking to return to the national squad, lead India Red and India Green in the opening encounter with abundant apprehensions regarding the playing conditions. The organisers have spruced up the venue but are keeping their fingers crossed.
The pink ball is the latest revolution in the game. The cricket under floodlights may be a juicy attraction aimed at spectators, but the dew factor and the playing surface leave an intriguing cover on the whole exercise.
Will the pink ball stand the test of the outfield and not shed its colour so fast as to make spotting it a bewildering experience? Former batsman and noted curator, Venkat Sundaram, said there was no need to worry on this account.
“The lush green outfield and some grass on the pitch can make it an exciting contest. The floodlights have been tested and won’t be a problem. But we will have to see if the dew makes an impact on the condition of the ball,” he said.
What about reverse swing? “Have to wait and see,” he smiled.
With a long season ahead, some aspirants can look forward to the tournament for launching their claims in the longer format. There is a comeback-motivation for Yuvraj, Raina, Harbhajan Singh, who can use this platform to push their cases. The stage should inspire the young brigade, too, to snatch the opportunity and show their mettle in this intense race for recognition.
For consistent domestic performers like Arun Karthik, Jalaj Saxena, Ian Dev, Rajat Paliwal, Ankush Bains, Abhinav Mukund, here is an opportunity to stoke their ambitions. There will be a second chance, too, in this format that encourages positive response from the players.
There was a time when a spot in the zonal squad for the Duleep Trophy propelled the individual into National limelight. There is incentive even now. The youngsters, and the stalwarts, have much to gain from the tournament over the next three weeks.
The challenge, apart from the opposition, lies hidden in the playing conditions.
The earlier you adapt, the farther you travel.
The teams: India Red: Yuvraj Singh (Capt), Abhinav Mukund, K.S. Bharat, Sudip Chatterjee, Gurkeerat Singh, Ankush Bains (wk), Arun Karthik, Akshay Wakhare, Kuldeep Yadav, Nathu Singh, Anureet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Nitish Rana, M Ashwin and Abhimanyu Mithun.
India Green: Suresh Raina (Capt), Robin Uthappa, Murali Vijay, Jalaj Saxena, Ambati Rayudu, Ian Dev Singh, Rohan Prem, Parthiv Patel (wk), Harbhajan Singh, Shreyas Gopal, Ashok Dinda, Sandeep Sharma, Ankit Rajpoot, Rajat Paliwal and Jasprit Bumrah.