Seniors eye another chance to strike form
India 'A' take on WI 'A' in final four-day game
While the city got to witness a first-class match -- the Ranji match between Karnataka and Haryana -- last December after a gap of two decades, the third and final four-day match between India ‘A’ and West Indies ‘A’ beginning Wednesday at the sprawling KSCA stadium in Rajnagar is certainly the biggest in terms of star quotient in a long time here.
After all it’s not often that people in smaller venues get to see the likes of Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan and Gautam Gambhir in action. While the bigger goal of course for the home side will be to level the series, trailing as they are 0-1 after losing the Mysore game, the sub-plot involving the aforesaid trio should prove equally interesting.
In many ways, the final match of this series will probably determine the immediate future of the big three who are trying to find their way back into the senior national squad.
Things didn’t progress as well as they would have wished in Shimoga in the second match but a good outing here should go a long way in resurrecting their cricketing careers.
With due respect to their achievements, the MS Dhoni-led side -- currently brimming with batting talent -- may not be missing the opening pair of Sehwag and Gambhir but with a few high-profile overseas series to come, the team would do well to have a fit and firing Zaheer in their ranks. With Sehwag expressing his desire to bat in the middle-order, which is watertight at present, and Gambhir struggling to construct a meaningful innings, it may take a while for the Delhi duo to regain their places in the squad but Zaheer has a realistic chance of getting selectors’ nod if he can hold up his own during the course of next four days.
For all the new bowling talent in the team, India will need Zaheer to lead their attack in countries like South Africa, New Zealand and England where his experience and knowledge of conditions could be handy. Crucially, Zaheer will have to prove that he can last a few matches without breaking down and the final match against West Indies ‘A’ may well provide an indicator of his fitness. He did little of note in Shimoga, bagging just two wickets in the match, and a lifeless surface laid out there wasn’t ideal for a man making his comeback after a lengthy break.
“I think he (Zaheer) played a game after a long time,” pointed out India ‘A’ skipper Cheteshwar Pujara. “He is getting his rhythm now and he is working hard on his fitness and his bowling in the nets. This wicket looks like there will be a little bit of help for the fast bowlers,” he noted, indicating his desire to bowl first on greenish strip.
The hosts may include Dhawal Kulkarni in the playing 11 with Mohammad Shami joining the Indian squad for the series against Australia (a T20I and first three ODIs). Abhishek Nayar cut short his practice session as he wasn’t feeling well but the Mumbai all-rounder is expected to be fit for the match. The visiting attack too may have to replace pacer Fidel Edwards who sustained a back injury in Shimoga and the scans haven’t been encouraging.
DH News Service
Teams (from): INDIA ‘A’: Cheteshwar Pujara (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Mohammad Kaif , V Jagadish, Sheldon Jackson, Abhishek Nayar, Paras Dogra, Uday Kaul (wk), Zaheer Khan, Parvez Rasool, Bhargav Bhatt, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ishwar Pandey.
WEST INDIES ‘A’: Kirk Edwards (capt), Kieran Powell, Kraigg Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Ashley Nurse, Miguel Cummings, Narsingh Deonarine, Chadwick Walton (wk), Assad Fudadin, Nikita Miller, Permaul Veerasammy, Jahmer Hamilton, Delorn Johnson, Leon Johnson, Fidel Edwards.
Match officials: Umpires: Rajesh Deshpande and Sudhir Asnani; Match Referee: Raghunath Beerala.
Hours of play: 0930 hours to 1130 hours; 1210 to 1410; 1430 to close.