Indian college cricket's finest teams face-off
Some of the brightest talents on the Indian college cricket circuit are set to face off in Chandigarh this week, in the finals of the India leg of the Red Bull Campus Cricket T20 tournament. The national finals will feature eight college teams, one each from Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Lucknow, Ranchi, Delhi and Chandigarh, which have made their way through the zonal rounds.
The team with the highest profile is DAV College, Chandigarh, the defending global champions. After winning the India leg of the tournament last January, they flew to Colombo for the global finals in April. There, on their way to the title, they registered wins against Australia's University of New South Wales, Pakistan's Karachi University and Sri Lanka's University of Moratuwa. In the final, at the R Premadasa Stadium, they faced Karachi University once more and romped to a 49-run win.
Of the eight teams in the competition, three others had made it last year as well: Mumbai's Rizvi College, which lost to DAV College in last year's India final, Bangalore's Jain College and Pune's MMCC. Chennai's SRM College, Lucknow's Sports College, Delhi's RLA College and Ranchi's Marwari College complete the line-up for this edition.
The India finals will be a knockout tournament, with the eight teams playing a quarter-final round on February 3 and 4, followed by the semis on February 6 and the final on February 7.
The Red Bull Campus Cricket T20 tournament is in its third year. In 2012, Rizvi College emerged India's champions, beating Jain College in the final. Rizvi College went into the international tournament as favourites and duly won the title, which was contested by teams from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Pakistan's Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology were runners-up.
In 2013, the tournament was expanded to include teams from Australia, the UK and Bangladesh. Jain College were the favourites to win the India leg, played in Mysore, but were knocked out in the semi-finals. A tight final between DAV College and defending champions Rizvi College ensued, with DAV winning the title and the right to host this year's competition.
"Reviving college cricket will be a big advantage for the young cricketers and for the country. It's a great platform for the cricketers to get noticed. It has helped me a great deal, personally. I was out of the state team and my Red Bull Campus Cricket performance helped me get my confidence back and also the selectors noticed this and gave me a chance in the team."*
Karnataka's KL Rahul, who is the second-highest run-getter in the Ranji Trophy 2013-14, and was the top scorer in the Red Bull Campus Cricket India leg in 2013
"Red Bull Campus Cricket 2014 already looks a whole lot tougher than last year. I must say that we are entering the competition in a very positive frame of mind, as DAV Chandigarh is yet to lose a single match in this edition of the tournament [in the zonals]. Being the defending champions definitely puts an extra ounce of pressure on the boys, as it does on the team we play against. I am glad that up until now we have only performed better under the pressure and not crumbled."
DAV College batsman Jaskaran Singh, who was the Player of the Tournament in the India leg of the previous competition, and has been earmarked as "a great prospect for Indian cricket" by former Australia pacer and Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson
"We're going through match simulations and planning for different situations. Besides the gym and training work, we're preparing ourselves for the mental challenge as well. I know that, if we play to our potential, we are one of the strongest sides around. Our team is a close unit that has a lot of experience and more than our share of tough games. I see us going a long way in this tournament."
Jain University pacer Prabhakar, who took to cricket despite his father wanting to enroll him in a tennis academy
"This is a T20 game and in this format, two good overs on either side can change the complexion of the game. We had a good team last year as well, but missed out on a great opportunity. We want to make it count this year."
RLA College pacer Rohit Dubey, who finds India captain MS Dhoni's coolness under pressure "inspirational"
"Our team has been one of the best performers so far in the South Zone and hope to continue our run of form on the big stage. We know what we are and how well we can perform; now it's just a question of carrying the momentum forward."
SRM University offspinner AC Pradhiban who became a cricketer by "mistake" after his father signed him up for a cricket camp, which he thought to be a fitness camp
*Quotes courtesy Red Bull website