The Feroz Shah Kotla stadium in New Delhi always springs a surprise or two. Ahead of the Duleep Trophy final between Central and South Zone, the greenish look to the surface, where the ball was hardly coming on to the bat during the last ODI played, has forced both camps to put the thinking hat on.
Even before the India-West Indies ODI, the various U-19 practice matches played on the strip offered very little assistance to the bowlers and remained low for most of the duration. Ankit Dutta, the young new curator at the DDCA, has spiced up the track with some grass on top but ground staff hints at a possible shave before the game.
Central skipper Piyush Chawla, when asked about the surface and the possible combination, felt it will behave like a usual Kotla wicket but the grass can affect their combinations.
“Looks like a good wicket. Little bit on the greener side. Will not be that easy. Hope to get a good match out of it. There will be something for during the initial hours, after that it will be an usual Kotla wicket.
“Looking at the wicket, it will be the normal 6-3-2 combination. But I was talking to the ground staff and they were saying that they might take the grass off. So if they shave, we will take a call in the morning,” says Chawla.
It has been a contrasting road to the final for both teams. While South relied on some quality seam bowling in helpful conditions against East Zone at Lahli, it was Central’s batting which helped them seal the final berth. Even without regular performers Stuart Binny and Karun Nair, both who are on India ‘A’ duty, South look a much better side, at least on paper. Aware about the challenge which awaits them, Chawla feels they need to play really good cricket against the South unit.
“They are good side with some really experienced players in their squad. We need to play really good cricket to give them a good fight and hope to come out victorious,” says the leggie.
If South are missing their star performers, Central too will miss the services of the spin duo of Kuldeep Yadav and Karn Sharma, both on India ‘A’ duty. Yadav and Sharma combined well in the game against North, and took three and two wickets respectively. Chawla, though, is not reading too much into the missing names and feels the bench strength will come good.
“They both (Karn and Kuldeep) are good cricketers and bowled well in the last game but I think the bench strength is also good. So hopefully we will not miss them,” says Chawla.
South Zone: Vinay Kumar (c), Robin Uthappa, Lokesh Rahul, Abhinav Mukund, Dinesh Karthik (w), Baba Aparajith, Abhimanyu Mithun, Pragyan Ojha, HS Sharath, Hanuma Vihari, Shreyash Gopal, Malolan Rangarajan, Vasudevan Jagadeesh, Ramaswamy Prasanna, Ravi Kiran.
Central Zone: Piyush Chawla (captain) Faiz Fazal, Jalaj Saxena, Robin Bist, Naman Ojha (wk), Ashok Menaria, Mahesh Rawat (wk), Ali Murtaza, Akshay Wakhare, Ishwar Pandey, Pankaj Singh, Arindam Ghosh, Amit Mishra, Shalabh Srivastava