A talented Central Zone team led by Piyush Chawla is aiming to come out firing all cylinders when it squares off with an equally combative South Zone side in the final of the Duleep Trophy, starting here on Wednesday.
While South Zone crushed East by an innings and 118 runs on a seaming track at Lahli, Central also deflated a very powerful North Zone on a batting paradise at Mohali in their respective semi-final matches.
It will be a battle of attrition between South Zone’s Robin Uthappa and Central’s Naman Ojha, both of whom scored contrasting match-winning centuries in their respective last four clashes.
The Feroz Shah Kotla track has a liberal grass coating kept by young curator Ankit Dutta but as has been the case with the Delhi track, the ‘rub of the green’ has only deceived the competing teams with ball keeping low and slow.
“I don’t know whether they will shave off some grass tomorrow before the start of the match. Look a good grassy wicket but I can only assess it once the match starts,” South skipper Ranganath Vinay Kumar said on the eve of the match.
The rival teams will be missing out on some key players due to the upcoming India A vs Sri Lanka practise game at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.
While Central’s spin duo of leggie Karn Sharma and chinaman Kuldeep Yadav have left, South will be missing as many as four players in Stuart Binny, Karun Nair, Manish Pandey and Sanju Samson. Samson, however was not in the playing XI in the last match.
Both teams have brought in reinforcements. Central in the form of veteran left-arm spinner Ali Murtaza and Vidarbha off-spinner Akshay Wakhare.
South brought in Tamil Nadu’s middle-order mainstay Ramaswamy Prasanna and off-break bowler Malolan Rangarajan, Kerala’s former India A batsman Vasudevan Jagadeesh and back-up medium pacer Ravi Kiran from Hyderabad.
The South have some of the best domestic batsmen in the business including Uthappa, who scored a century high on quality and gumption on a green track at Lahli. The selectors will also have a close look at new ‘Domestic Run Machine’ Lokesh Rahul.