The final of the Deodhar Trophy between East Zone and West Zone in Mumbai on Wednesday will be the last one-day game of the domestic season, before the national selectors meet to pick the list of 30 probables for the World Cup. The BCCI had pushed its one-day tournaments to the start of the domestic calendar with the World Cup in mind and it is the proximity of the tournament that has lent interest to the tournament, even as the Deodhar Trophy, like its inter-zonal first-class counterpart Duleep Trophy, struggles to stay relevant.
In the IPL era, there is a perception that many young Indian cricketers do not perhaps take traditional tournaments like the Duleep Trophy and the Deodhar Trophy too seriously, but Ambati Rayudu insists that is not the case. The batsman, who is the West Zone vice-captain for the Deodhar Trophy, said players were aware of the importance of the tournaments, even without a World Cup audition on the line.
"I think the players do think like that [these tournaments are important]. Whether they say it aloud or not, everyone knows the importance of playing for the zone," he said on the eve of the final at the Wankhede Stadium. "You don't have to tell. They are all motivated. And there are coaches, managers and senior cricketers do remind them if someone is getting carried away.
"We have to look back and see how many players have played for West Zone. How many great players have walked out of these dressing rooms… that itself should give you a great motivation to do well."
Players from both sides will be looking to make an impression on the selectors before the probables are announced on Thursday. For Rayudu, who is closer to cementing his place in the Indian side, the challenge is also to maintain his recent form. His century against Sri Lanka last month in Ahmedabad has helped him in his goal of sealing a World Cup spot, and he has struck two fifties after that - one against Sri Lanka, and the other in the semi-final against South Zone on Monday. Rayudu, however, isn't looking too far ahead.
"Everything is different to be honest. As of now I shall be focussed on Ranji Trophy, which is important on its own, and not think about Australia for the moment," he said. "I am sure if I am picked for the one-day series [tri-series in Australia] it will give me enough time to prepare for the competition."
Rayudu insists his present focus was on the final where the West Zone side will be up against East Zone who made it to the final on the back of Manoj Tiwary's 151. Rayudu was hopeful West Zone could draw on the confidence of their semi-final win, in which they gunned down a target of 315 against South Zone. Rayudu chipped in with a fifty before Suryakumar Yadav and Akshar Patel snatched victory for the side from a tough position.
"It was brilliant batting from Surya and Akshar. And Shardul [Thakur, who made an unbeaten 31 at No 10], too," he said. "Winning games like this always boosts a team and the rest of us will like to contribute tomorrow."