As the North Zone squad made their way to the PCA Stadium on Tuesday morning, their captain and off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was conspicuous by his absence. Shortly, it became clear that Harbhajan would miss the game against the Piyush Chawla-led Central Zone as he is recuperating from viral fever.
While the absence of the senior spinner will weaken the North Zone challenge, their batting line-up is not short on star power, albeit those who have fallen down the pecking order and are hoping to force their way back to the national side.
The man who will take over as skipper in Harbhajan’s absence, Gautam Gambhir, is among those who will be closely watched as the season kicks off. Gambhir was part of the recent England tour as the third opener and though a big score eluded him at Manchester and at the Oval, Gambhir will be eying a similar position for the tour of Australia.
Along with Gambhir, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh too will be hoping to knock on the doors of the national team. But the performance of the senior openers will be closely watched more so because they seem to have been given an opportunity over younger openers like Unmukt Chand and Manan Vohra.
Two seasons ago Yuvraj had used the Duleep Trophy platform to make a comeback when he scored 208. But this time, with the World Cup less than four months away, Yuvraj will have to make the most of the early games in the season to plot his comeback.
Central Zone medium-pacers Ishwar Pandey and Test-capped Pankaj Singh will provide teeth to the attack.