While the competition does not involve all of the best players in the country, India Blue captain Gautam Gambhir is not concerned. He knows the importance of the Duleep Trophy, which is now a pink-ball day-night affair.
“Most Duleep Trophy captains say you should look at your own individual performances, but that’s not going to happen under me,” he announced on the eve of the match against India Red, led by Yuvraj Singh.
“The most important thing is that we turn up to win the tournament. That is how the game of cricket should be played, rather than (looking for) individual performances. It’s about winning the tournament. We are going to try and do everything possible to win the tournament.”
Not that Red will be a mute spectator.
Fresh from its thumping win over India Green in the opening match of the tournament, Red has the services of a batsman who seemed to read the conditions the best. Abhinav Mukund adapted quickly to the pink ball challenge and came up with scores of 77 and 169 to dominate the contest. Essentially, he played the waiting game, watched the ball on to his bat closely, and did not indulge in fancy stroke-play as some of the others had.
For Yuvraj, the failure in both innings must add to the pressure of his comeback campaign. He will need to put bat to ball more convincingly. A big score from Yuvraj could be the thing to light up the tournament and enhance the quality of the fare in the middle.
Yuvraj can draw from his past exploits in the Duleep Trophy, especially the 2003-04 final on his home turf in Mohali. Asked to prove his fitness by playing the final then, Yuvraj had come up with scores of 106 and 148 against East Zone to book his place in the Indian team for the historic tour of Pakistan a month later. He only grew in stature from that Duleep Trophy performance.
Gambhir brings the competitive flavour to the match. Having fallen out of favour of the National selectors, he can treat this stage as a stepping stone to craft his comeback and is not going to lose an opportunity.
“This is what professional cricket is all about. The most important thing is if our mindset is about winning the tournament it becomes easier. A game of cricket or a tournament needs to be played in a certain way, and that is about going out there and (playing to) win. That’s what I have always focussed on in any game and in any tournament, and nothing will be different tomorrow,” said Gambhir.
Blue has inducted leg-spinner Karn Sharma in the place of an injured K. Monish while Pradeep Sangwan finds a spot on the Red squad in the place of Abhimanyu Mithun, who moves over to Blue as a replacement for Shardul Thakur.
Mithun, however, is likely to miss this match on account of his wedding.
The teams (from):
India Red: Yuvraj Singh (captain), Abhinav Mukund, K.S. Bharat, Sudip Chatterjee, Gurkeerat Singh, Ankush Bains, Arun Karthik, Akshay Wakhare, Kuldeep Yadav, Nathu Singh, Anureet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Nitish Rana, M. Ashwin and Pradeep Sangwan.
India Blue: Gautam Gambhir (captain), Mayank Agarwal, Sheldon Jackson, B. Aparajith, Siddhesh Lad, Dinesh Karthik, Parveez Rasool, Karn Sharma, Krishna Das, Surya Kumar Yadav, Mohit Sharma, Pankaj Singh, Abhimanyu Mithun, Cheteshwar Pujara and Hanuma Vihari.
Play starts at 2 p.m.