In ‘hazardous’ Delhi air, Mushtaq Ali T20’s knock-out rounds start tomorrow

As on Monday, the highest Air Quality Index (AQI) level in Delhi was 349, which is 'Harzardous' and was recorded in Shahdara area.

Sixty six premier domestic cricketers will battle it out in toxic Delhi air which has been the cause for health hazards as the Syed Mushtaq Ali National T20 Championship’s pre-quarter-final starts in national capital on Monday.

As on Monday, the highest Air Quality Index (AQI) level in Delhi was 349, which is ‘Harzardous’ and was recorded in Shahdara area.

The place where two of the pre quarter-finals will be played is Feroz Shah Kotla, which is located in Central Delhi, where the condition is slightly better with peak AQI of 249, which is deemed “Unhealthy”.

“The conditions are slightly better compared to past week and there is no intimation that we won’t go ahead with the game,” a senior DDCA official told PTI when asked if there is a chance of cancellation.

Kotla will host one match in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

On the cricketing front, Maharashtra will miss their key and in-form player Ruturaj Gaikwad, who has been called for national duty, when they take on arch-rivals Vidarbha in one of the three pre-quarter-finals.

Ruturaj was the chief architect of Maharashtra’s wins in the league stage and he had continued his good run from the IPL, where he was the leading run-scorer for his side Chennai Super Kings.

But having earned a national India call-up for the T20 series against New Zealand, Maharashtra will miss his services.

In his absence, Naushad Shaikh, the vice-captain in the league stage, was on Monday named captain of the side.

This was after Rahul Tripathi, who was named vice-captain in the original squad but missed the league stage due to an injury, requested the selectors to allow him concentrate on his batting instead of naming him the captain.

“Initially while declaring the team, Ruturaj Gaikwad was captain and Rahul Tripathi his deputy. Tripathi could not travel with the team in league matches due to injury. After reaching knock-out stage, Tripathi joined the team,” a release from Maharashtra Cricket Assocoaion said.

“He (Tripathi) was supposed to lead the team. But he requested the selectors that he wanted to concentrate on his batting and relieve him from captaincy for at least this tournament.

“So Naushad Shaikh who was vice-captain to Ruturaj Gaikwad (during league stage) in the absence of Rahul Tripathi was named captain of the team.”

Tripathi’s return will surely help Maharashtra, who had won the T20 domestic championship 10 years back.

With Ruturaj not available, the trio of Tripathi, Naushad and another senior player Kedar Jadhav will have to shoulder responsibility if the side has to score or chase big.

Kedar has exactly not been among heavy runs and come Tuesday, he would like to take on the Vidarbha attack with gusto and help his team advance to the last eight.

Naushad, who is an aggressive batter and can take any attack to cleansers on his day, would need to come good at the ‘Kotla’. However, the duo would need support from other batters.

On the bowling front, the four overs by experienced left-arm spinner Satyajeet Bachhav would be crucial in deciding the game’s outcome.

Vidarbha were unbeaten in the league stage and had topped the group. They would be more than keen to continue the winning streak.

And for that to happen, the role of spinner Akshay Karnewar would be crucial in absence of pacer Umesh Yadav, who is picked in India’s squad for New Zealand.

Karnewar had scripted history by becoming the first bowler in men’s T20s, to concede zero runs, in his spell. He will have to bowl in the right areas to stop the Maharashtra batters.

Their batters including skipper Akshay Wadkar, would have to come good, if Vidarbha have to spring a surprise, else Maharashtra are run-away favourites to reach the quarters.

Match starts at 8.30 AM IST.

Two other quarter-finals: Himachal vs Kerala: 12 PM at Airforce Ground, Palam

Karnataka vs Saurashtra, at Arun Jaitley stadium, 1 PM IST.

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