Big boys in town for knock-outs

TALKING STRATEGIES: Mumbai's Rohit Sharma (right) and Haryana's Yuzvendra Chahal discuss a point during a practice session at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Saturday. DH PHOTO/ SRIKANTA SHARMA R

With hosts Karnataka out of the tournament, the Vijay Hazare Trophy knockouts may be missing out on local flavour but the presence of some of the big names for the quarterfinals, and possibly for the semifinals, makes up for some of the lost sheen.

Eight teams will be in action over the next two days on Sunday and Monday, and the likes of India’s limited-overs vice-captain Rohit Sharma, middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu and limited-overs regular and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal will turn up for their respective teams to lend some star attraction. Besides these three, veteran Gautam Gambhir, pacemen Varun Aaron, Dhawal Kulkarni, leggie Amit Mishra, all-rounder Jayant Yadav, among others, provide some international touch to the proceedings.

On Sunday in the first set of quarterfinals, Gambhir-led Delhi will take on Haryana who are guided by veteran Mishra at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium while Mumbai will clash with minnows Bihar, who made the last eight after topping the Plate group in their first tournament after returning to the BCCI fold. In fact, among the teams in the knockouts, only Babul Kumar of Bihar figures in the top-10 scorers from the group stage. So, while a star-studded Mumbai start overwhelming favourites to make the semis, they can take Bihar lightly at their own peril.

The match between Delhi and Haryana will be an interesting battle with both teams well-equipped to topple each other. While Delhi boast of a better batting line-up with Gambhir leading the run-chart for them with 386 runs, Haryana have an edge in the bowling department with three quality spinners and two decent pacemen in Harshal Patel and Rahul Tewatia.

On Monday, Jharkhand will run into Maharashtra at Chinnaswamy with both teams in top form. Maharashtra finished Group A in second spot behind Mumbai while Jharkhand topped Group C with some stellar individual shows. Shahbaz Nadeem claimed an astonishing 8/10 against Rajasthan while batsmen like Ishan Kishan (377) and Anand Singh (343) have often pulled off improbable wins with some blinders.

Nadeem wasn’t at team’s practice on Saturday as he was away in Kolkata to be with his wife who is expecting. The left-arm spinner was expected to join the team on Saturday night but their coach Rajiv Kumar all but ruled out MS Dhoni turning up for Monday’s match.

“He hasn’t informed us about his willingness to join the team but you never know with him. He makes his own decisions,” said Rajiv. “But he is always there in spirit with us. Even if he turns up on match day, he is unlikely to play as he doesn’t want to deny a youngster his chance just for that one match. Ishan (wicketkeeper-batsman) is doing well for us and he may have to give up wicketkeeping which he (Dhoni) wouldn’t want,” reasoned Rajiv on Saturday.

Maharashtra too have been riding high on some great team work. That they finished second in a group that had champion outfits like Karnataka, Mumbai, Punjab, Baroda and Vidarbha speaks volumes about their all-round strength.

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Big boys in town for knock-outs

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