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North presents the biggest challenge for West

Nandakumar Marar

MUMBAI: West Zone has not been stretched so far in the two Duleep Trophy cricket matches in the run-up to the final.

North Zone presents the biggest challenge yet for Parthiv Patel’s balanced team in the five-day final which begins on Tuesday at the Wankhede stadium.

North Zone, with a major chunk of players from the Delhi squad which clinched the Ranji Trophy Super League at the Wankhede Stadium, has in captain Mithun Manhas, openers Aakash Chopra, Shikhar Dhawan and all-rounder Rajat Bhatia gifted performers known for delivering in big-match situations.

The absence of match-winners like Gautam Gambhir and Pradeep Sangwan will be felt, but skipper Manhas looks at the situation as an opportunity for others.

Run-hungry batsmen

Chopra and Manhas, who hit double centuries each against East Zone, are run-hungry batsmen and capable of grinding any attack to the ground. “I am enjoying my batting and captaincy,” said Manhas, on the eve of the final.

Yashpal Singh and V.R.V. Singh have proved to be able replacements and can be depended upon to deliver the goods.

When Manhas was asked about the difference between leading a state and a zonal side, he said: “Players in North Zone may be from different States but we speak the same language. Each player wants to come good in a Duleep Trophy final, so captaining a zonal side is not difficult.”

Easy task

West captain Parthiv echoed similar thoughts about striking a rapport with players from outside his own State. “We are familiar with each other’s game after playing tournaments like the Times Shield (in Mumbai).”

“West has players from Gujarat (Ranji Plate League champion), Saurashtra and Baroda (Ranji Super League semifinalists). So with so many players in form and trying to do better, I don’t look at captaincy as a problem.” England Lions got a taste of the West might the week before, now it is North’s turn to face the heat.

“After conceding 300-plus in the first innings against the Lions, I thought we did well to come back and win the match,” said Parthiv, under whom the squad is gelling into a powerful unit, with enough depth in batting and bowling. The problem for West Zone, coached by Pravin Amre, is of plenty.

The teams (from): West Zone: Parthiv Patel (capt.), Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane, Sahil Kukreja, Yusuf Pathan, Rakesh Dhruv, Sandeep Jobanputra, Siddharth Trivedi, Cheteshwar Pujara, Rakesh Solanki, Mohnish Parmar, Ashraf Makda, Harshad Khadiwale, Samad Fallah. Coach: Pravin Amre.

North Zone: Mithun Manhas (capt.), Aakash Chopra, Shikhar Dhawan, Karan Goel, Yashpal Singh, Rajat Bhatia, Uday Kaul, Amit Mishra, Chetanya Nanda, Vikramjeet Malik, V.R.V. Singh, Joginder Sharma, Ashok Thakur, Paras Dogra, Samiullah Baig, Ravi Inder Singh.

Umpires: A.V. Jayaprakash, Suhas Phadkar. Match referee: D. Vasu.

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