Exciting new initiative set to take wing

Yuvraj-led Air India (Red) meet BSNL under lights at Chinnaswamy today

Yuvraj Singh

Bringing the best cricketing talent among the corporates together on a single platform already has the trappings of a masterstroke, largely because the eight-day tournament comes immediately before the national team’s departure for the tri-series in Colombo.

Eleven players from the 15-man Colombo-bound squad will do duty for their respective employers -- a fair mix of public and private sector units -- as 12 teams line up for a top prize of Rs 1 crore. Only Sachin Tendulkar, Ashish Nehra, Dinesh Kaarthick and Yusuf Pathan don’t have a team to represent in the competition.

The Chinnaswamy stadium, which will host three preliminary matches, the first semifinal on September 5 and the September 8 final, should provide a sneak preview of what to expect as the tournament progresses when formidable Air India (Red) clash with an equally strong India Cements outfit on Thursday.

The Yuvraj Singh-led Air India (Red) will kick off the Bangalore leg under lights on the morrow against a BSNL side clearly out of its depth in Group D, but plenty of focus will be trained on Wednesday, when Chennai-based India Cements hit the park.

Rahul Dravid, back in the one-day international scheme of things, will lead Cements, determined to make the most of welcome match practice before boarding the flight to Colombo. The classy right-hander was keen as ever during training at the KSCA ‘B’ grounds on Monday evening, fitting seamlessly into the team and ready with a word of advice or guidance when the plethora of younger lads approached him.

“He is a great and experienced guy,” coach Stephen Fleming observed. “Such wonderful cricketers do not come every now and then. He is one guy who encourages others to talk to him and ask questions. He is very approachable. Along with all those statistics and achievements that he has, he is a nice guy; that makes it good to have him around us.”
The likes of Lakshmipathi Balaji, the in-form KB Arun Karthik, S Badrinath, Hemang Badani, back from the ICL, and Sudeep Tyagi, the highest wicket-taker in the Emerging Players tournament in Australia in early August, will add further impetus to the Cements challenge. 

Air India (Red) are a power-packed outfit, Yuvraj the obvious star and Robin Uthappa providing the local flavour. Coupled with Suresh Raina and Naman Ojha, it makes for an exciting top-order, though the Reds will be hurt by the absence initially of all-rounder Irfan Pathan, out through injury. Dhawal Kulkarni will have to shoulder the bowling responsibilities in the company of Siddarth Trivedi and Monndeep Mangela, while Hrishikesh Kanitkar provides experience.

BSNL are a motley mix with neither the depth nor the class of their group rivals, skipper Joginder Singh having the unenviable task of rousing his boys to play above themselves.
His team, however unfancied they might be going into Tuesday’s face-off, should welcome the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the best, and come away better for the experience.

Teams (from):
BSNL: Joginder Singh (capt), Ankur Kakkar, Arindam Das, Amit Patil, Varun Kumar, Anshul Kapoor, NS Negi, BBCC Mahapatra, Sanjay Bamel, Nirangan Behera, Kamlesh Makwana, Sanjeev Kumar, Jyotiradiya Singh, Sunil Dholpure.
Air India (Red): Yuvraj Singh (capt), Robin Uthappa, Naman Ojha, Sushant Marathe, Paul Valthaty, Suresh Raina, Ankit Chavan, Siddarth Trivedi, Monndeep Mangela, Dhawal Kulkarni, Rohan Kerkar, Harmeet Singh, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Ajit Chandela, Pritam Gandhe, Saurabh Netravalkar.
Umpires: Shahvir Tarapire and Siva Ravi. Third umpire: Ulhas Gandhe. Match referee: D Vasu.

Hours of play: 1430-1800 hours and 1845-end of play.
Other matches on Monday: ITC vs Air India Blue (Mohali), BPCL vs MRF (Visakhapatnam), Tata SC vs All India Public Sector Sports Promotion Board (Dharamsala).

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