Duleep Trophy: West Zone start favourites as big guns eye turnaround

G Unnikrishnan Alur, Jul 4 (PTI) Redemption will be the central theme when a clutch of cricketers from the West Zone, including Cheteshwar Pujara and Prithvi Shaw, enter the field for the Duleep Trophy semifinals against Central Zone, starting here from Wednesday.

For the crucial clash, the West Zone bring in Pujara, Shaw, Suryakumar Yadav and Sarfaraz Khan and all four batters need a career reboot.

Pujara, a veteran of 103 Tests and over 7000 runs, has scripted tales of valour over the years. But now he finds himself out of reckoning for India.

He was dropped from India’s squad for the tour of West Indies after a modest outing during the World Test Championship final against Australia last month. He will be eager to make a statement of intent during the Duleep Trophy.

Rewind to the cryptic tweet of him batting that was shared on his timeline soon after he was omitted from the Test squad. It is imperative then for him to be among runs because India will not be playing a Test series until later this year post their West Indies assignment.

Shaw and Sarfaraz also fall under that redemption line, but there is a subtle subtext to it. Reasons more than cricket have contributed to them remaining outside the India tent.

Shaw is a precocious talent, of that there is no doubt. After all, not many batters have made centuries on debut in Ranji Trophy, Duleep Trophy and in Test cricket.

He had also led India to an ICC Under-19 World Cup victory in 2018. But after those heady days, the 23-year-old has played a total of five Tests, six ODIs and one T20I.

Despite a 379 off 383 balls against Assam in the Ranji Trophy early this January, Shaw has fallen down the Indian pecking order. His indiscipline off the field has often come under the scanner.

He has recently signed a contract with Northamptonshire and will be aiming to drift back into the selectors’ eye level with a good stint with his new County side and in the Duleep Trophy.

Sarfaraz is a sailor in the same boat. He has envious numbers too in the domestic circuit. He remains one of those few batsmen to have scored over 900 runs in two successive seasons (2020-21, 2021-22). The 25-year-old’s average in First-Class cricket is a shade over 79, second only to Sir Don Bradman.

Even in the previous domestic season, he amassed runs at an average of 92.66. His non-selection in the India squad for the Windies trip was a prime-time debate subject.

But the word is that his off-field behaviour and sub-par fitness level had closed the door on him, at least for now.

Perhaps, another big outing here might help him finally crack the India code.

Suryakumar, on the other hand, is an integral part of India’s white ball squads. But the Mumbaikar has not been able to replicate that success in the longer format.

His Test career, which began against Australia at Nagpur in February, has failed to move from the starting point. A substantial outing in the Duleep Trophy will be a boost to his desire to be regarded as an all-format batter.

That is the larger picture. They may be fulminating in varying density inside against their non-selection. But if they can glue together their personal motives with that of the team then the next four days could be riveting.

Teams From: Central Zone: Shivam Mavi (c), Upendra Yadav (wk), Vivek Singh, Himanshu Mantri, Kunal Chandela, Shubham Sharma, Amandeep Khare, Rinku Singh, Akshay Wadkar, Dhruv Jurel, Saurabh Kumar, Manav Sathar, Saransh Jain, Avesh Khan, Yash Thakur.

West Zone: Priyank Panchal (c), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad, Sruyakumar Yadav, Cheteshwar Pujara, Harvik Desai (wk), Prithvi Shaw, Het Patel (wk), Sarfaraz Khan, Arpit Vasavada, Atit Seth, Shams Mulani, Yuvraj Dodiya, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Chetan Sakariya, Chintan Gaja, Arzan Nagwaswalla.

Match starts 9:30am IST.

Source: PTI News


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