A chance to make history
November 6, 1981 seems a long way back, and few players in the current East Zone side may recall the events of that day at the Brabourne Stadium. After putting up 327 in the first innings of the Duleep Trophy final, East reduced West Zone to 136 for 6 and stood on the threshold of a historic triumph. But battling hundreds by Ravi Shastri and Dilip Vengsarkar, and umpteen dropped catches thwarted their bid to win the Duleep Trophy for the first time since its inception in 1961. That match was the last time they appeared in the final.
Beginning tomorrow, Devang Gandhi and his band will have a shot at history, as East clash with North Zone at Mohali. Not too concerned about the past, Gandhi spoke about the importance of "collective contributions" on the eve of the game. The team combined well as a unit this season and Gandhi termed the Deodhar Trophy victory as his "greatest triumph." Shiv Sundar Das has been in great form in the last two matches, against South and England A, and Rohan Gavaskar will lend solidity to the middle order. Karsan Ghavri, coaching East, was equally upbeat and humorously said, "There are no grey areas, only green ones on the pitch."
Ashish Nehra will definitely play, with his fitness under severe scrutiny. Dinesh Mongia, apart from confirming Nehra's inclusion, commented about the top order - containing Aakash Chopra, Gautam Gambhir and Mongia himself - not performing to potential.
With a few Punjab players in their ranks, North will also have the advantage of the home conditions. The nature of the wickets at Mohali has spanned the entire spectrum this season. Punjab bowled out Andhra for just 30 in a Ranji Trophy match that finished within two days, while the Test between India and New Zealand could be branded as timeless. Mongia, though, was happy with the wicket and said, "It will help the seamers as well as the spinners. Compared to a few other wickets we have played on, this looks like a good batting wicket."
`The stage is set' may be a cliché, but it is impossible to ignore when one sees the venue. The massive velvety carpet at Mohali, the wicket decked up for the occasion and the practice facilities all in place. East know they are playing in what is arguably India's best venue. Not a bad place to create a bit of history.
North Zone (from) 1 Aakash Chopra, 2 Gautam Gambhir, 3 Pankaj Dharmani, 4 Dinesh Mongia (capt), 5 Mithun Manhas, 6 Sangram Singh, 7 Ajay Ratra (wk), 8 Joginder Sharma, 9 Sarandeep Singh, 10 Gagandeep Singh, 11 Amit Bhandari, 12 Sandeep Sharma, 13 Vishal Bhatia, 14 Fazil Mohammad, 15 Ashish Nehra
East Zone (from) 1 SS Das, 2 Devang Gandhi (capt), 3 MS Dhoni, 4 Arindam Das, 5 Rohan Gavaskar, 6 Deep Dasgupta (wk), 7 Kiran Powar, 8 Laxmi Ratan Shukla, 9 Saurishis Lahiri, 10 Utpal Chatterjee, 11 Debasis Mohanty, 12 Shib Shankar Paul, 13 Rajiv Kumar, 14 Vasanth Saravanan, 15 Chetan Sachdev