indian cricket

No longer India starters, Ashwin and Umesh will be eager to add context to Irani Cup ahead of IPL

With just three weeks left for the cash-rich Indian Premier League to start, the Irani Cup sticks out like sore thumb.

A bunch of domestic performers such as Mayank Agarwal, Prithvi Shaw along with a battle-hardened internationals like Ravichandran Ashwin will be eager to add some context to Irani Cup when Rest of India clashes with Ranji Trophy champions Vidarbha in Nagpur from Wednesday.

With just three weeks left for the cash-rich Indian Premier League to start, the Irani Cup sticks out like sore thumb as India A’s next big tour starts not before July.

Most of the Rest of India players have had good Ranji Trophy season but BCCI’s decision to re-schedule Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy before IPL auctions has taken the sheen away from the prestigious match, which used to serve as trials for India hopefuls in yesteryears.

However, youngsters like Shaw, Agarwal, Abhimanyu Easwaran won’t mind a big hundred in front of national selectors as it would ensure a ticket for the A team’s tour of England – a series happening after 2010. Ravikumar Samarth after a fabulous Deodhar Trophy would like to continue his rich vein of form.

Among the bowlers, Navdeep Saini, who is among the fastest bowlers in India right now, would like to make an impression with workhorse like mentality.

For Ashwin, it will be a chance to get some overs under his belt albeit in a different format, having skipped the Deodhar Trophy due to a niggle.

Ashwin replaced Jadeja in the squad with the latter yet to recover from side strain sustained during Vijay Hazare Trophy.

That Ashwin is in the IPL mode was evident as he was in New Delhi for a Kings XI Punjab promotional event and only reached Nagpur in the evening.

Can Vidarbha keep up the momentum?

For Vidarbha, it will be an arduous task to keep up the momentum even though Umesh Yadav is back in their ranks to lead the attack with Rajneesh Gurbani.

They have a solid batting line-up in skipper Faiz Fazal and his opening partner Sanjay Ramaswamy, who have laid solid foundation in most of Vidarbha’s matches.

Veteran Wasim Jaffer has played more Irani Cup matches than any of the remaining 21 players on the park and wouldn’t mind showing his sublime skills against Ashwin on what promises to be a flat batting track.

The Umesh vs Ashwin battle could also be a fascinating sub plot considering both are no longer being looked upon as automatic choices across formats.

While Umesh returned without playing a single Test match, Ashwin at the moment will be more focussed on IPL, considering that’s his only route to make a comeback in white-ball cricket. With Ashwin around and Shahbaz Nadeem bowling left-arm spin, Jayant Yadav may not get a look-in in the playing XI.

Squads:

Rest of India: Karun Nair (captain), Abhimanyu Easwaran, Prithvi Shaw, Ravikumar Samarth, Mayank Agarwal, hanuma Vihari, Kona Bharat (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Jayant Yadav, Shahbaz Nadeem, Anmolpreet Singh, Siddarth Kaul, Ankit Rajpoot, Navdeep Saini, Ait Seth

Vidarbha: Faiz Fazal (captain), Ganesh Satish (vice-captain), R Sanjay, Wasim Jaffer, Apoorv Wankhede, Akshay Wadkar (wicketkeeper), Siddhesh Wath, Aditya Sarvate, Karn Sharma, Akshay Wakhare, Umesh Yadav, Rajneesh Gurbani, Yash Thakur, Aditya Thakare, Atharva Taide.

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