Mumbai:A confident and strong West Zone are to cross swords with weak-on-paper East Zone in the four-day Duleep Trophy semi finals at the Brabourne Stadium from Thursday.
Led by Mumbai's Ranji Trophy winning captain Wasim Jaffer, West are carrying too many guns for the comfort of East Zone, led by India discard Shiv Sunder Das of Orissa.
It would need a Herculean effort from the easterners to upset the apple-cart of the high-flying West possessing an array of batsmen and bowlers who have done extremely well in Ranji Trophy.
Jaffer, who would open the innings for West, has amassed over 1200 runs in Ranji Trophy this season with a triple hundred to boot while his Mumbai team-mate Ajinkya Rahane has also scored over 1000 runs and Cheteshwar Pujara of Saurashtra has accumulated over 900 runs.
Not to be outdone is vice-captain and Gujarat captain cum wicket keeper Parthiv Patel and his team-mate Bhavik Thaker as well as the Maharashtra duo of Kedar Jadhav and Ameya Shrikhande who have all been among the runs.
The bowling looks very balanced and effective with the joint top wicket taker (42 wickets) in Ranji Trophy, Dhawal Kulkarni of Mumbai, Gujarat's Sidharth Trivedi, Maharashtra's Samad Fallah - both with over 30 wickets to their credit - and Baroda's Ajitesh Argal available to use the new ball.
Ramesh Powar of Mumbai and Rajesh Pawar of Baroda are there to provide the spin content while Abhishek Nayar, with his late order left-handed batting and useful medium paced bowling, gives the team the right balance.
East, in contrast, fall short in both batting and bowling.
The Orissa trio of Shiv Sunder Das, Halhadar Das and Niranjan Behera, along with Bengal's Manoj Tiwary and Jharkhand's 19-year-old Saurabh Tiwary, need to rise to the occasion in a big way to match the might of West's batting.
Wicket-keeper Wridhiman Saha, who has been included in the Cricket Board's centrally contracted players' list, gets the chance to showcase his talent in front of national selectors, both with the bat and with his glove work.
Ranadeb Bose and Ashok Dinda, who bowled Bengal into the quarter finals of the Ranji Trophy from the Plate Division before the team lost to Tamil Nadu after dominating the tie at Bangalore, will spearhead the pace attack with Orissa's Basant Mohanty. The team's think-tank will have to choose from Tushar Saha, Anand Katti, formerly of Karnataka (both left arm spin) and Jayanta Debnath (off spin) to man the slow bowling department with Manoj Tiwary there to provide variety with his leg-spin bowling.
For the first time in the championship a South African umpire, Marais Erasmus, would be officiating with his Indian counterpart Shavik Tarapore.
Erasmus, on the ICC's ODI panel of umpires who has officiated in seven limited overs internationals, feels that both on-field umpires would benefit from this umpires exchange programme chalked out by the Cricket Board and its SA counterpart.
"It's going to benefit both of us. It's better to stand in a domestic match and then do a ODI," said Erasmus who has represented Boland in SA domestic cricket in 53 first class ties.
The rival teams (from):
West Zone: Wasim Jaffer (Capt.), Parthiv Patel (Vice-capt., wicket-keeper), Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara, Bhavik Thaker, Kedar Jadhav, Ameya Shrikhande, Abhishek Nayar, Ramesh Powar, Rajesh Pawar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ajitesh Argal, Samad Fallah, Sidharth Trivedi and Azharuddin Bilakhia.
East Zone: Shiv Sunder Das (Capt.), Rashmi Ranjan Parida (Vice capt.), Basant Mohanty, Niranjan Behera, Manoj Tiwary, Saurabh Tiwary, Halhadar Das, Wriddhiman Saha, Tushar Saha, Jayanta Debnath, Anand Katti, Ranadeb Bose, Ashok Dinda, Krishna Das and Dibyendu Chakrabarty.
Umpires: Shavik Tarapore and Marais Erasmus (South Africa).
Third umpire: Sanjeev Rao.
Match referee: Manu Nayar.