THE BOARD of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have informed Virat Kohli and the other contracted players, who will be taking on the West Indies in two T20s at Florida later this weekend, that they will have to play the Duleep Trophy final upon their return to India.
The annual domestic tournament has got a face-lift this year with the introduction of pink-balls and day-night cricket. Three teams have already been named for the Duleep Trophy, with the first match set to commence in Greater Noida on Tuesday pitting India Green captained by Suresh Raina and the Yuvraj Singh-led India Red. The likes of Kohli, R Ashwin and other first-class players in the USA-bound T20 squad will be back in time for the final that is scheduled to be held between September 10-14. It will also be the only competitive game they get before the Kiwis land here for a three-Test series, especially considering that their fourth Test in the Caribbean was almost completely rained off—eventually ended up as the third shortest Test that wasn’t abandoned. Another reason for the board’s insistence on the top players being a part of the pink-ball experiment is to get their valuable feedback as India look to brace up to a new era of day-night Tests later this year.
According to a top BCCI official, who confirmed the board’s decision to The Indian Express, there is even a possibility that some of the players might be drafted into the original squads for the penultimate game on September 4. It’s learnt that even coach Anil Kumble will be present during the final.
“All contracted players will be playing once they are back. Their feedback is crucial to decide whether we should go ahead with the pink ball Test in the future or not. The Indian team will be back on August 29 and will get a few days of rest. Then they will be either playing the September 4 game or the finals straight away,” a BCCI official said.
He further added, “The squads that have been named for the Duleep Trophy will be changed in the later stages. As the senior Indian players come into the frame, second-string players will be moving out to make way for them. There is no zonal system now, so we can change teams in order to provide what we feel is a good practice session for the boys.”
The BCCI had originally wanted all their high-profile players to be a part of the entire tournament. That is before the hastily organized trip to the USA was planned and sanctioned. The selectors have already been informed about being prepared to make the few alterations necessary to fit in Kohli & Co when they are back. Kohli and Rohit Sharma it’s learnt have already confirmed their availability to the board and will be seen battling the pink ball for the first time in their careers.