Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Knockouts set to begin in ‘hazardous’ Delhi

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 Tuesday.

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”.

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“The conditions are slightly better compared to past week and there is no intimation tat 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 its key and inform player Ruturaj Gaikwad, who has been called for national duty, when it takes on arch-rival 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.

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In his absence, senior players Kedar Jadhav and current vice-captain Naushad Shaikh, 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.

If a fit Rahul Tripathi, who missed the league stage due to an injury sustained in the IPL final, is available, then that will surely help Maharashtra, which had won the T20 domestic championship, 10 years back.

Maharashtra will also have a new captain for the marquee clash as the young opener from Pune led in the league stage.

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

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

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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 is run-away favourite 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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