It won’t be an easy fight to reclaim what he has lost but Ajinkya Rahane will not deviate from his “process driven” methods as he gears up to lead a star-studded West Zone against minnows North East in the opening Duleep Trophy game starting Thursday.
The Indian domestic cricket season starts with revival of Duleep Trophy, back in its zonal format as two quarterfinal matches kick off proceedings. There couldn’t have been a bigger mismatch between the two sides as West boasts of a batting line-up with names like skipper Rahane, the marauding Prithvi Shaw, talented Yashashvi Jaiswal, KKR captain Shreyas Iyer and Rahul Tripathi, who as recently as tour of Zimbabwe was with the Indian team.
But focus will be on Rahane, who will certainly make a last ditch attempt to get back into the Test team after being dropped earlier this year after two years of barren run.
“See, I believe in following my processes. Right now, my focus is on the Duleep Trophy and doing well for West zone team and we will see what happens in future,’ Rahane said on the eve of the match. For him, it is about taking each match as it comes.
“Playing one game at a time…Coming back after injury, the focus on what is in hand rather than the future. Looking forward to doing well,” he said in response to a question if he saw it as the first opportunity towards working for the comeback. He said it was good that Duleep Trophy had returned to the zonal format and said it provided opportunity to domestic players. “When I played (Duleep Trophy) last time in 2009-2010, it was in zonal format. When you play zonal (format), a lot of players get an opportunity. I always believe that you need to give importance to domestic cricket, Ranji and Duleep. It is great that all zones are participating and it is a great sign,” Rahane added.
Along with the skipper, Shaw and Jaiswal can rack up big scores and the North-East bowlers would be hard pressed to stop them. Domestic stalwart Jaydev Unadkat forms part of a strong bowling attack that also comprises Baroda pacer Atit Seth and Saurashtra’s Chirag Jani.The powerful West Zone side is expected to carry too many guns for their opponents which consists of players from the North-Eastern region and the Plate teams.
Duleep Trophy schedule:
QF: West Zone vs North East Zone (in Chennai), East Zone vs North Zone (in Puducherry).
West Zone: Ajinkya Rahane (captain), Prithvi Shaw, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Tamore (wk), Shams Mulani, Tanush Kotian, Rahul Tripathi, Satyajeet Bachhav, Het Patel, Chintan Gaja, Jaydev Unadkat, Chirag Jani, Atit Sheth.
North East Zone: Al Bashid Muhammed, Ankur Malik, Techi Doria, Rongsen Jonathan, Khrievitso Kense, Kishan Lyngdoh, L Kishan Singha, Bishworjit Konthoujam, G Lalbiakvela, Techi Neri, Dippu Sangma, Rex Rajkumar, Ashish Thapa, Hokaito Zhimomi (captain), Bobby Zothansanga.
North, East zones in battle of equals
In Puducherry, East will take on North in what appears to be an evenly matched contest on paper. The experienced Manoj Tiwary leads the men from the East with a mix of experience and youth to call upon.
Tiwari, a veteran of many battles, will look to lead from the front in the tournament that returns to the domestic scene after a gap of three years. Though the team will miss the services of top-order batter Abhimanyu Easwaran, who is part of the India ‘A’ team playing New Zealand, they have enough firepower to run up a big total and have a varied bowling attack. North, on the other hand, led by Mandeep Singh includes Yash Dhull, who captained the India team to under-19 World Cup triumph earlier this year. Dhull’s performances will be watched keenly after a brilliant start to his first-class career. The team includes several experienced names with Navdeep Saini and Siddharth Kaul likely to lead the bowling attack.
East Zone: Manoj Tiwary (captain), Virat Singh (vice-captain), Nazim Siddique, Sudip Kumar Gharami, Shantanu Mishra, Anustup Majumdar, Riyan Parag, Kumar Kushagra, Abishek Porel (wk), Shahbaz Ahmed, Shahbaz Nadeem, Ishan Porel, Akash Deep, Mukhtar Hussain, Mani Shankar Murasingh.
North Zone: Yash Dhull, Dhruv Shorey, Manan Vohra, Mandeep Singh (captain), Himanshu Rana, Akash Vashisht, Anmol Malhotra, Mayank Dagar, Pulkit Narang, Navdeep Saini, Siddharth Kaul, Jagjit Singh, Nishant Sindhu, Qamran Iqbal, Vikas Mishra.