Once, they were among the pillars holding the Indian cricket team. Not anymore. They wander like lost hunters in the wilderness. The solid Gautam Gambhir and the wily Harbhajan Singh were the architects of many an Indian win, but now in oblivion, will be looking to strike it rich in the City of Destiny.
A few good outings would make them serious contenders. There is a lot of pride at stake for these two players when North Zone meet South Zone in the semifinals of the Deodhar Trophy on Monday. The duo will still be the guides for North, who have a fair sprinkle of younger players. But there is Ishant Sharma too, who has to show that he means business with consistent bowling. There are the likes of Perveez Rasool, Rishi Dhawan and Mandeep Singh who would like to impress in front of the national selectors. Rasool, the Jammu & Kashmir off-spinner, has been effective both with the bat and ball. Dhawan was the highest wicket-taker (49) in the Ranji Trophy and this could be another opportunity to showcase his talent and enter the next rung in the ladder.
South won the Deodhar Trophy some ten years ago and they run into a team that is very strong. But the rich form of some of their players could raise hopes for South. Notable among them are fast bowler R Vinay Kumar and opening batsman Robin Uthappa. The duo were important members of the Karnataka team that has enjoyed triple success in the domestic tournaments (Ranji, Irani and Vijay Hazare). Test opener Murali Vijay would be looking to be among runs. For left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha, who was sadly ignored after his ten-wicket haul in the Mumbai Test against West Indies, this could be another chance too impress the selectors.
Other youngsters like Lokesh Rahul, who caught the eye in the Ranji Trophy, Baba Aparajith, Sanju Samson and Ricky Bhui will also be keenly watched.
North: Harbhajan (c), G Gambhir (vc), P Chopra, R Paliwal, Mandeep, Milind, Gurkeerat, P Rasool, R Dhawan, Ishant, S Kaul, A Nehra, A Sakuja, N Saini.
South: Vinay (c), B Aparajith, S Kamat, A Mithun, M Pandey, KL Rahul, R Shah, M Vijay, D Karthik, R Bhui, Yo Mahesh, P Ojha, P Parameswaran, S Samson, R Uthappa.
Also Read: Central Zone in Semis