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All eyes on the pitch for Duleep Trophy final

Anil Kumble will be among those witnessing the Duleep Trophy final here with India Blue meeting India Red in the five-day contest which heralds the packed domestic cricket season.

CAN HE DELIVER? With the pitch likely to assist spin, India Red coach Narendra Hirwani will hope Amit Mishra can make an impact against India Blue.

In a symbolic welcome to Kumble, one of the finest bowlers the game has seen, the curator has laid out a spinner-friendly pitch at the Shaheed Vijay Singh Pathik Sports Complex. “The ball should turn,” said India Red captain Yuvraj Singh.

India Blue coach Aashish Kapoor put it simply, “It will turn.”

The pink ball “will turn” observation would annoy some and please some. The pitch, grazed as it appeared, holds the key to the duration of the match. A three-day fight or an extended one? Much would depend on how the batsmen shape against the ball in daylight and under floodlights.

“I honestly felt that the pink ball didn’t swing much and didn’t get old,” asserted Yuvraj. “It was coming on to the bat very nicely. I don’t know how it is going to play on a turning track. Hopefully this pitch might afford turn.”

Aashish looked at it from the spinners’ perspective. “This is probably the experimental phase of the pink ball. Not many people know how it is going to behave. That is why such an important tournament is being held before a Test series.”

The coaches spent time with their slow bowlers, taking pains to explain the significance of variety. “I tell the spinners to bowl at a slow pace, let the ball hang a bit, if the pitch is flat.

“If there is help the bowler can push through the air and bowl a little faster. You have to constantly read the situation and adapt,” noted India Red coach Narendra Hirwani.

The challenges created by the pink ball are many. As Aashish observed, “Because of the glaze on the ball there is less turn for the finger spinners and whatever happens, it is for the wrist spinners and that too at night.

“It skids on a little bit more when there is dew or when it gets cooler. That is one thing which I have inferred or understood about this ball. It’s an experimental stage and (we have) one more experiment in this game.”

There were serious apprehensions regarding the pitch, prepared to help the spinners, keeping in mind the forthcoming series against New Zealand where India rightly looks to exploit the home advantage.

Said Hirwani, “In the matches we played so far, the pitches were grassy. The ball would maintain (colour mainly) on those wickets. Now if this a turning track, let’s see how the ball behaves. I think it will make a difference if it is a spinning track.”

As long as the pitch behaves, provides true bounce, the teams will enjoy their cricket. What if the surface plays dodgy and challenges the batsmen, especially when the colour of the ball becomes a tricky issue.

Cheteshwar Pujara said, “It’s challenging to pick the ball under lights but it’s not that you can’t. Ultimately you have to watch the ball and play. At times you have to accept the fact that some things might be challenging because when you are batting at 2 p.m. you are able to sight the ball really well.

“Even in Test cricket if you are batting in the first session and if the pitch is green you have to see through the new ball. If it’s a turning track the ball will spin. So you have to adjust to whatever is in front of you.”

The fact is the batsmen may have to counter low bounce and as the match progresses, this could become a monster to contend.

The teams (from):

India Red: Yuvraj Singh (capt.), Abhinav Mukund, Shikhar Dhawan, Sudip Chatterjee, Gurkeerat Singh, Ankush Bains (wk), Stuart Binny, Akshay Wakhare, Kuldeep Yadav, Amit Mishra, Nathu Singh, Anureet Singh, Ishwar Pandey, Nitish Rana and Pradeep Sangwan.

India Blue: Gautam Gambhir (capt.), Mayank Agarwal, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Siddhesh Lad, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Parvez Rasool, Suryakumar Yadav, Karn Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohit Sharma, Pankaj Singh, Abhimanyu Mithun, Sheldon Jackson and Hanuma Vihari.

Plays starts at 2 p.m.