The 2018-19 domestic season begins on Friday with the Duleep Trophy, which will provide a platform to the aspirants to shine and challenge the established names, who are away on national duties. The tournament will be staged at the picturesque NPR College ground at Natham.
Three teams – India Red, India Blue and India Green – comprising a mix of experienced players and talented youngsters will battle it out in the 57th edition of the tournament, which would be played under lights with a pink ball.
While the three round-robin matches would be four-day affairs, the final, to be held from September 4, would be played over five days.
The first match is between India Green and defending champion India Red.
The tournament would serve as an opportunity for the players who have been part of the national squad at various points but find themselves on the fringes now.
For India Red captain Abhinav Mukund, a good performance would not only set the tone for the long season ahead but will also remind the selectors of his capabilities, considering that the Indian openers have had a tough in the ongoing Test series in England.
India Green skipper Parthiv Patel is another player trying to shine in the season-opening tournament, coming in the backdrop of injury to Test ‘keeper Wriddiman Saha and the unimpressive display by Dinesh Karthik in England.
There are others like Basil Thampi, who is yet to make his international debut for India but has been part of the T20 squad, Dhawal Kulkarni, Parvez Rasool and Rajnesh Gurbani, who starred in Vidarbha’s Ranji triumph last season.
There are three Tamil Nadu players, apart from Mukund, in the squads and the tournament presents them a chance to stake claim for higher honours.
Young paceman K Vignesh, who had a stint in National Cricket Centre in Australia recently as part of the MRF Pace Foundation and Cricket Australia exchange programme, has done well in the last two seasons and will aim to show his potential.
Former India cricketer M Venkataramana, who was coach of Dindigul Dragons in the recent Tamil Nadu Premier League feels the pitch here would have good bounce and said the TNPL matches showed the true nature of the surface.
“The pitch (in Dindigul) has excellent bounce. The outfield is also good. There will be something in it for the fast bowlers,” he added.
There are some players who have done well at the U-19 level and how they perform in the championship will be watched with interest.
Dindigul District Cricket Association secretary N Venkataraman said he was happy that the BCCI had allotted the tournament to them and expected quality cricket to be played over the course of three weeks.
“Spectators have witnessed red and white ball cricket. Now, they will have the opportunity to watch matches being played with pink ball as well,” he added.
With some India players and those who participated in the IPL set to turn out for the three teams, Venkataraman said he expected a good turnout as entry is also free.
Vidarbha captain Faiz Fazal will lead India Green which includes Andhra wicketkeeper K S Bharat, Jaydev Unadkat and Dhawal Kulkarni among others.
The tournament promises interesting action with focus on how the pink ball behaves and also the performances of the players.
Squads: India Blue: Faiz Fazal (captain), Abhishek Raman, Anmolpreet Singh, Ganesh Satish, N Gangta, Dhruv Shorey, KS Bharat (WK), Akshay Wakhare, Saurav Kumar, Swapnil Singh, Basil Thampi, B Ayappa, Jaydev Unadkat, Dhawal Kulkarni.
India Red: Abhinav Mukund (captain), R R Sanjay, Ashutosh Singh, Baba Aparajith, Writtick Chatterjee, B Sandeep, Akshay Wadkar(WK), S Nadeem, Mihir Hirwani, Parvez Rasool, R Gurbani, A Mithun, Ishan Porel, Y Prithvi Raj.
India Green: Parthiv Patel (captain & WK), Prashant Chopra, Priyank Panchal, Sudeep Chatterjee, Gurkeerat Mann, Baba Indrajith, V P Solanki, Jalaj Saxena, Karn Sharma, Vikas Mishra, K. Vignesh, Ankit Rajpoot, Ashok Dinda, Atith Sheth.