The 2019-20 Indian domestic cricket season will kick off with the Duleep Trophy on August 17, with top-order batsmen Shubman Gill, Faiz Fazal and Priyank Panchal captaining India Blue, India Green and India Red respectively. The tournament was earlier a contest between the five zones in the country but is now a face-off between three hand-picked sides. It will be played at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.
Gill and Panchal have been integral parts of the India A squads in recent times, and have impressed in the opportunities they got in the home series against Sri Lanka A, and away against West Indies A this year. Fazal, meanwhile, has successfully led Vidarbha to back to back Ranji Trophy titles in the last two seasons.
Gill's best hit was a 96-ball 109 (retired hurt) against the Sri Lankans in Belgaum in early June, and has since hit three half-centuries against West Indies A in the one-dayers. The 19-year-old batsman admitted to being disappointed after he was ignored for the senior team's tour of the Caribbean, but he has continued to make a strong case for himself, and the leadership of India Blue in the Duleep Trophy could be an indication of what the selectors think about his future.
Panchal, who will captain India Red, has also been in good form: against Sri Lanka A, his 160 in Belgaum helped India A win the four-dayer by an innings and 205 runs. More recently, in the second four-dayer in the Caribbean, Panchal hit 58 and 68 and was Man of the Match in a seven-wicket win. Abhimanyu Easwaran, who scored 233 in the same first-class match against Sri Lanka A in Belgaum and has opened often with Panchal for India A this year, is a part of the India Red ranks too - a 14-man squad, as opposed to the 15-man line-ups Blue and Green have.
As for India Green, 33-year-old Fazal, who hasn't been in action for India A of late, is the captain. The squad includes exciting youngsters like Rahul Chahar and Ishan Porel, as well as strong domestic performers like Dhruv Shorey, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Ankit Rajpoot and Tanveer-Ul-Haq in the mix.
Two star performers from the Plate Group of Ranji Trophy 2018-19 - Sikkim's Milind Kumar, the top run-scorer with 1331 runs at an average of 121, and Bihar left-arm spinner Ashutosh Aman, who picked up a chart-topping 68 wickets - have been rewarded too. Milind will turn out for India Green, and Aman for India Blue.
A number of other prominent domestic performers have been included in the three squads, with wicketkeeper Akshay Wadkar, left-arm-spinning allrounder Aditya Sarwate and offspinner Akshay Wakhare, apart from Fazal, featuring from among the title-winning Vidarbha side.
Unlike the past few years though, where the entire tournament was played with a pink ball, only the final will be a day-night affair this time around. "We have floodlights at the Chinnaswamy but we are not playing with pink ball under lights as there is no live coverage. Only the final match will be a day/night affair as that's the only match to be aired live" BCCI general manager Saba Karim told Press Trust of India.
India Blue: Shubman Gill (capt), Ruturaj Gaikwad, Rajat Patidar, Ricky Bhui, Anmolpreet Singh, Ankit Bawne, Snell Patel (wk), Shreyas Gopal, Saurabh Kumar, Jalaj Saxena, Tushar Deshpande, Basil Thampi, Aniket Choudhary, Diwesh Pathania, Ashutosh Aman
India Green: Faiz Fazal (capt), Akshath Reddy, Dhruv Shorey, Siddhesh Lad, Priyam Garg, Akshdeep Nath, Rahul Chahar, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Jayant Yadav, Ankit Rajpoot, Ishan Porel, Tanveer-Ul-Haq, Akshay Wadkar (wk), Rajesh Mohanty, Milind Kumar
India Red: Priyank Panchal (capt), Abhimanyu Easwaran, Axar Patel, Karun Nair, Ishan Kishan (wk), Harpreet Singh Bhatia, Mahipal Lomror, Aditya Sarwate, Akshay Wakhare, Varun Aaron, Ronit More, Jaydev Unadkat, Sandeep Warrier, Ankit Kalsi