One-day battle kicks off amid poor ground realities
Walk into the Chinaswamy Stadium 24 hours before the start of the Deodhar Trophy and find a huge film crew there with all their cranes and cameras. The gathering is bigger than any of the crowds you normally see in domestic games. Ask somebody about the Deodhar Trophy opener between West Zone and Central Zone and you're likely to be met with: "Deodhar Trophy? What Deodhar Trophy?"
The film crew is there to shoot a promo for the Indian Premier League's Bangalore Royal Challengers. Although the square is out of bounds, the outfield is clearly affected. With vast spaces that are uneven and devoid of grass, the ground looks far from being ready for an important domestic match the next day.
The West Zone team arrived for nets and practice this morning only to be shunted out the main ground. Nothing had changed when the Central Zone side that arrived in the afternoon. The IPL is the easy target but the organisers knew well in advance that the Deodhar Trophy would start on March 14.
If this is not distraction enough, consider this: all the matches in this year's Deodhar Trophy were supposed to be day-night affairs. The players were under the same impression until they landed here and found out it will be all day games. And some of them came to know of it through reports in newspapers.
Distractions aside, the ground staff claim the ground will be ready on match-day; their belief seems to stem from the special soil-dressing used on the outfield. Both teams practised at the adjoining ground at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) and were looking forward to the start of the premier one-day competition.
The Deodhar Trophy is played on a league basis, where a team plays all the others in a round-robin format. The players are counting on something that has lacked in the organisation of the match: professionalism.
In the first match, defending champions West Zone face a tough challenge in Central Zone. Led by Mohammad Kaif, Central feature Praveen Kumar, Piyush Chawla, Suresh Raina, and RP Singh - all who have been in and around the national side for a some time now.
While Praveen and Chawla played in the CB Series in Australia and Raina was a part of the squad, RP was a key member of both the Test and ODI sides before he was injured in Australia. For RP the Deodhar Trophy is a chance to prove his fitness ahead of the Tests against South Africa. Central will miss Tanmay Srivastava's services; he is carrying a hand injury from the Under-19 World Cup that India won and is expected to be out of action for about two weeks.
For West, Ajinkya Rahane, Wasim Jaffer and Yusuf Pathan were in outstanding form during the Ranji trophy one-dayers. West have their fair share of proven performers - a mix of international and domestic stars. Between them Jaffer and Rahane, the Mumbai openers, scored 656 runs in 563 balls in four matches, with highest scores of 178 not out and 187 respectively. Jaffer's innings came in a successful chase of 358 against Baroda.
In Rohit Sharma West find a vital enforcement, setting up an interesting contest between the Central bowlers and the West batsman. And Pathan has been smashing attacks in both four-day and one-day games - his 38-ball 92 against Gujarat being the stand-out effort.
For the time being one can only trust the ground staff and hope the ground will be sufficiently ready for the first match. The players, displeased but not ready to complain or protest, are doing just that.
Teams (from) Central Zone: Mohammad Kaif (capt.), Praveen Kumar, Suresh Raina, RP Singh, Piyush Chawla, Murali Kartik, Praveen Gupta, Naman Ojha, Sandeep Singh, Faiz Fazal, Rajesh Kanojia, Himalaya Sagar, Pankaj Singh, Deepak Yadav
West Zone: Wasim Jaffer (capt.), Ajinkya Rahane, Parthiv Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Iqbal Abdulla, Rohit Sharma, Sandip Maniar, Munaf Patel, Abhishek Nayar, Siddharth Trivedi, Pinal Shah, Venugopal Rao, Kedar Jadhav, Ajit Agarkar, Mohnish Parmar
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo