Ajinkya Rahane will be hoping to keep himself in the mix for World Cup selection as he leads a formidable Rest of India against Ranji Trophy champions Vidarbha in the Irani Cup starting on Tuesday.
For Vidarbha, the aim will be to do an encore of the 2017-’18 season where they won both Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup.
However it will be easier said than done against a Rest of India batting line-up that boasts of Rahane, opener Mayank Agarwal, Mumbai’s Shreyas Iyer and the dogged Hanuma Vihari in its ranks.
Rahane, who played three List A matches against England Lions with two half-centuries to his credit, is fighting for the reserve opener’s slot. For Agarwal, Iyer and Vihari, it will be good game time as they would have little motivation considering they are not in the scheme of things as far as World Cup is concerned.
While Irani Cup is a five-day game a good knock will only help Rahane grab eyeballs as selectors zero in on the couple of slots available.
For Vidarbha, this Ranji season has been more of team work than individual brilliance. And coach Chandrakant Pandit would be keen that his boys carry on this trend in the Irani Cup even though senior pacer Umesh Yadav will be missing due to a niggle.
Umesh has been advised rest and is expected to be replaced by Yash Thakur. However all the other prominent names including 41-year-old Wasim Jaffer, left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate, wicket-keeper batsman Akshay Wadkar and seamer Rajneesh Gurbani will come out all guns blazing.
They will have their task cut out against Rest of India line-up which is more batting heavy with another talented domestic performer Anmolpreet Singh and India A regular Ishan Kishan to complement the senior internationals.
The bowling is slightly on the weaker side with Ankit Rajpoot of UP, Rajasthan’s Tanveer ul Haq and Kerala’s Sandeep Warrier being the new ball bowlers. The spin department will be led by Saurashtra’s Dharmendra Jadeja and off-spinner Krishnappa Gowtham.
For this hosts, apart from Jaffer, they will be banking on their skipper Faiz Fazal and opener Sanjay Ramaswamy.
Sarwate, who was the player of the match in the final, is a handy all-rounder, who can contribute with both the bat and the ball. He dismissed in-form Cheteshwar Pujara in both innings and would be aiming to dislodge Rahane, who has had more problems against slow bowlers compared to faster ones in recent years.