Mushtaq Ali T20 knockout rounds begin tomorrow in ‘dangerous’ air of Delhi

As the pre-quarterfinals of the Syed Mushtaq Ali National T20 Championship begin in the national capital on Monday, sixty-six leading domestic cricketers will battle it out in the toxic air of Delhi.

The highest Air Quality Index (AQI) level in Delhi till Monday was 349, which is ‘hazardous’ and was recorded in Shahdara area.

The venue where the two pre-quarterfinals will be played is the Feroz Shah Kotla, located in central Delhi, where the situation is slightly better with a peak AQI of 249, which is considered “unhealthy”.

When asked if there is a possibility of cancellation, a senior DDCA official told PTI, “The situation is a little better than last week and there is no information that we are going to cancel the game. Won’t move forward.”

One match will be played in Kotla in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

On the cricket front, Maharashtra will miss their prime and in-form player Ruturaj Gaikwad, who has been called up for national duty, when they take on arch-rivals Vidarbha in three pre-quarterfinals.

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

But Maharashtra will miss out on his services after India’s inclusion in the national team for the T20I series against New Zealand.

In his absence, vice-captain Naushad Sheikh was made the captain of the team in the league stage on Monday.

It was after Rahul Tripathi, who was named vice-captain in the original team but missed the league stage due to injury, requested the selectors to let him focus on his batting instead of naming him the captain. .

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

“He (Tripathi) had to lead the team. But he requested the selectors to focus on his batting and at least relieve him of the captaincy for this tournament.

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

Tripathi’s return will certainly help Maharashtra, which won the T20 domestic championship 10 years ago.

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

Kedar hasn’t really been in the middle of heavy runs and come Tuesday, he would like to take on the Vidarbha attack with enthusiasm and help his team progress into the last eight.

Naushad, who is an aggressive batsman and can attack any cleaner on his day, will need to do well at the ‘Kotla’. However, both will need the support of other batsmen.

On the bowling front, veteran left-arm spinner Satyajit Bachhav’s four overs will be crucial in deciding the outcome of the game.

Vidarbha were unbeaten in the league stage and topped the group. They will be very keen to continue the winning streak.

And for that to happen, spinner Akshay Karnawar’s role will be crucial in the absence of pacer Umesh Yadav, who has been selected in India’s squad for New Zealand.

Karnevar created history by becoming the first bowler to concede zero runs in his spell in men’s T20Is. He has to bowl in the right places to stop the Maharashtra batsmen.

Their batsmen, including skipper Akshay Wadkar, will have to come up with good, if Vidarbha are to surprise, Maharashtra are the favorites to reach the quarter.

The match will start at 8.30 am IST.

Two other quarter finals: Himachal vs Kerala: 12 noon at Air Force Ground, Palam

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

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