When the bus halted outside the dressing room of the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium (VCA) the players trooped out for a training session ahead of the Challenger Trophy that begins on Monday. Paul Valthaty,emerged out of the bus wearing an Air India jersey. He will be among the cricketers who will hope to shine under the lights at this stadium in Jamtha.
Valthaty cant be faulted if he has dreamt of wearing a jersey with the BCCI logo embossed on it. Over the course of this tournament,Valthaty,a star of the IPL,should get an opportunity to enhance his reputation in the 50-over format too.
There has always been an interesting mix of players in previous editions of this tournament – one which is played under lights and telecast live – as it brings together the best domestic cricketers. This year is no different.
In Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir,captains of India Green and India Red,are two India players who have been picked to play in this tournament for different reasons. Off-spinner Harbhajan has just been dropped from the One-day International squad,while Gambhir is making a return to the national side after playing in the Champions League following his recovery from the after-effects of a concussion suffered during the England tour. While for Gambhir,this tournament will serve as a warm-up,the stakes are higher for the likes of Valthaty.
Valthaty wants to make the most of this opportunity.
Performers in the Challenger Trophy have been rewarded. I made a mark in the Indian Premier League but I want to replicate my performance in the 50-over format too, Valthaty said.
Irfan Pathan,unlike Valthaty,has tasted success at the highest level before fading out. He knows a thing or two about what it takes to excel in international cricket but going into this tournament he will feel like a rookie.
A tournament like the Challenger allows you to showcase your skills as well as test your fitness. Everyone who is playing here is trying to impress as some of them are making a comeback,while others are trying to make a name for themselves. I am not getting too ahead of myself here nor am I thinking of how to win a place back in the Indian side. I just want to get some quality match time under my belt, Pathan said.
Meanwhile,at the practice grounds two Uttar Pradesh teammates,Piyush Chawla and RP Singh,are warming up. The left-arm medium-pacer,RP Singh,will be looking to find his rhythm after his poor show in England,while Chawla will hope to finish at the top of the pile of wicket-takers among the spinners at least. Hell have competition from Amit Mishra,Pragyan Ojha and Iqbal Abdullah not to mention Bhargav Bhatt,the top wicket-taker of last years domestic season.
A player coming into this tournament high on confidence will be Shikhar Dhawan who hit back-to-back centuries in the final of the Irani Trophy. The likes of Valthaty,Ambati Rayudu,Manish Pandey,Dinesh Karthik and Robin Uthappa will hope to steal the limelight from the in-form Dhawan. The India team for the last three ODIs against England is yet to be picked. With some of the regulars in the side still recuperating from injury,those performing in the Challenger will fancy their chances of getting a call up the next time the national selectors meet.