Air India set to win either way

Two evenly matched teams could be at the mercy of the elements

 
Whether it is the Reds who walk away with the top prize of Rs 1 crore, or whether it is the Blues that are the last team standing, will determine which Singh of Yuvraj or Harbhajan respectively is crowned the King.

There is little to separate the sister concerns in a title match that could again find itself at the mercy of the elements, though the Reds enjoy a significant advantage because they are already three matches old at this particular venue while the Blues are coming in cold, so to say.

The confidence in Yuvraj’s ranks is enormous, particularly following a stirring five-wicket triumph in Saturday’s semifinal against ONGC, possessing some of the best bowlers in the country. Every single batsman in the top order has made a worthwhile contribution, but what will please Yuvraj the most is the progress made by Sushant Marathe, the 23-year-old from Mumbai.

Just one of many in a southpaw-infested Reds’ top-order, Marathe has enjoyed his time in Bangalore over the last five weeks. In the all-India invitation tournament last month, he had two hundreds and a half-century in four innings as Air India made the final before bowing to KSCA XI; in his first hit in the Corporate Trophy two days back, he showed that there is more to the Reds’ batting than just the skipper and Suresh Raina.

With national skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the opposition -- the Jharkhandi has ceded both captaincy and wicket-keeping duties for the tournament -- Marathe will do his future prospects no harm at all with another tidy, polished effort against another quality attack spearheaded by Harbhajan and the new-ball duo of Rudra Pratap Singh and Pankaj Singh.

The likes of Marathe and Chandan Madan, who slammed an unbeaten century for the Blues in Sunday’s semifinal victory over Tata Sports Club in Mohali, have used the opportunity to find early-season form in the lead-up to the start of the domestic calendar, while Tuesday will offer one final chance for members of the Sri Lanka-bound Indian one-day team to shed rust and hit their straps.

At various stages, Yuvraj, Raina and Dhoni have been amongst the runs over the last one week; the onus, however, will be on the bowlers to convince themselves that all is well with their bowling world before they embark on the flight to Colombo.
There has been little help for the bowlers from the Chinnaswamy surface, and their cause hasn’t helped by evening dew, but then again, not for nothing does cricket enjoy the reputation of being a batsman’s game! Seat belt time, then, as Air India meets Air India.

Teams (from):
Air India (Red): Yuvraj Singh (capt), Naman Ojha, Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina, Sushant Marathe, Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Ankit Chavan, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ajit Chandila, Moondeep Mangela, Saurabh Netravalkar, Pritam Gandhe, Harmeet Singh, Rohan Kerkar, Siddharth Trivedi, Paul Valthaty.

Air India (Blue): Harbhajan Singh (capt), Manvinder Singh Bisla, Chandan Madan, Mohammad Kaif, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Shafiq Khan, Reetinder Singh Sodhi, Sachin Rana, Sonu Sharma, Rudra Pratap Singh, Pankaj Singh, J Arun Kumar, Rajat Bhatia, Vijay Dahiya, Dheeraj Jadhav.

Umpires: Shahvir Tarapore and Amish Saheba. Third umpire: S Ravi.
Match referee: Raju Mukherji.
Hours of play: 1430-1800 hours and 1845-end of play.

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