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Millennium Post

Chance for rejects, aspirants

The five-day Irani Trophy match between Mumbai and the Rest of India, commencing at Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday, offers a good chance for some India rejects to press for recalls and other aspirants to showcase their talent in front of the national selectors.

Rest of India, led by one-day discard Virender Sehwag, has a good all-round team on paper and the list includes Harbhajan Singh and S Sreesanth, eager for India call-ups after being ejected out of the team on basis of form or fitness or both.

The rest outfit also contains openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay either of who can open with Sehwag and push for berths in the Test team to take on Australia later this month. Vijay was the third opener for the lost Test series against England without playing a game while Dhawan could force his way in with a solid display as replacement for under-performing Delhi mate Gautam Gambhir.

Sehwag, a certainty for the opening Test at Chennai from February 22, would also be eager to get among the runs against a good Mumbai attack spearheaded by Dhawal Kulkarni after being cold-shouldered for the one-day series against England. Mumbai would be led by Abhishek Nayar, a top pick in last Sunday’s IPL auction by Pune Warriors, in the absence of the injured Ajit Agarkar.

There is the consistent domestic performer Wasim Jaffer also in the mix of openers though the 34-year-old campaigner last played for India in a Test at Kanpur five years ago against South Africa.

There are also middle order aspirants from both sides, with Mumbai opener Ajinkya Rahane too in the lot after being chosen by the selectors as a middle order batsman in the team which played against England in the four-Test rubber.

The others include Suresh Raina and Manoj Tiwari from the Rest ranks and Rohit Sharma from Mumbai.

Sachin Tendulkar, who figured in Mumbai’s knockout run to Ranji crown, would get another chance to get into the groove for the Australia series after being run out cheaply in the final against Saurashtra.

Two bowlers whose performance will be keenly watched are Harbhajan and Sreesanth. Both feisty cricketers would be extra keen to push their claims for a Test slot. Sreesanth has been out of action with injuries for a long time. How he shapes up would be interesting to watch.


NAYAR TO TAKE SACHIN’S ADVICE WHILE LEADING


Handed the captaincy role after injury to Ajit Agarkar, Mumbai skipper Abhishek Nayar said he would take help from senior players like Sachin Tendulkar in leading the Ranji champion side in the Irani Cup match against Rest of India which begins on Wednesday. ‘It will be a challenge. I will be leading Mumbai for the first time at the senior level. It will be a big challenge but I have people to help me like Sachin (Tendulkar), Rohit (Sharma) and Ajinkya (Rahane). So I think with their help, the work will become easier. Hopefully we have a good game. I think I will obviously enjoy it. It does add a bit of pressure. With the help of my team mates, hopefully, we can have a good game,’ he said on the eve of the match.


‘I WANT TO DO SOMETHING SPECIAL’

Harbhajan Singh on Tuesday termed the Irani Cup match as the ‘biggest’ he could have got in recent times as the off-spinner intends to stage a comeback to the Indian cricket team for the upcoming four-match Test series against Australia. The 32-year-old is part of the Rest of India team which will take on Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai on Wednesday and Harbhajan said he wants to do something special to get picked for the Australian series, starting later this month. ‘If I do well, I have a great chance to come back into the Indian side and Australia is coming over, so before the series starts, this was the biggest game I could have got. I want to do something special and be relaxed and look to bowl well rather than running after the wickets. Wickets will come, if not today, tomorrow it will come. My aim is to bowl well, if I do that, I will get the rewards,’ he said.  The off spinner, who has 408 wickets in 99 Tests, would join the select 100-Test club of Indian players, containing nine names, if he gets picked for the upcoming home series. ‘I am not thinking about the 100th test. I am looking forward to this game and hopefully I have a good outing and we do well as a team. I don’t want to think too much ahead,’ he aded.


IRANI TROPHY COMES FULL CIRCLE

Irani Trophy will come full circle when Mumbai, reigning Ranji Trophy champions, take on Rest of India at Wankhede Stadium February 6-10. The annual fixture was instituted in 1959-60 to commemorate the silver jubilee of the Ranji Trophy. The idea was to have the Ranji Trophy winners play the Rest of India, after the conclusion of the national championship. The trophy to be awarded to the winning side was named after Z.R. Irani, who served the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) as treasurer (1928-29 to 1945-46), vice-president (1963-64 and 1964-65) and president (1966-67 to 1968-69). After the inaugural match in 1959-60 between Mumbai and the Rest of India, there was no game in 1960-61 and 1961-62. The encounter was revived in 1962-63. There was no match in 1964-65 and the match was then shifted to the beginning of the subsequent season.

Accordingly, Mumbai, the Ranji Trophy winners in 1964-65, played Rest of India at the start of the 1965-66 season. This practice continued till the 2011-12 season after which it was decided to return to the original format. From now on, the Irani Cup game will be played annually between the same season's Ranji Trophy winners and the Rest of India, as was the case in 1959-60, 1962-63 and 1963-64. Wednesday's match will be the 51st Irani Cup fixture and the second of the 2012-13 season. The Rest of India beat Rajasthan, the 2011-12 Ranji Trophy winners, in the previous game.

Rest of India have won the Irani Cup 24 times and have shared the trophy twice. They shared it with Mumbai in 1965-66, in what was the first Irani Cup game to be played at the start of the season.

There was no game in 1979-80 but the Rest of India were declared joint winners with Delhi, the 1978-79 Ranji Trophy winners. Mumbai have won the title 14 times. The following are the other winners: Karnataka (Four times), Delhi (Twice [plus one joint title with the Rest of India in 1979-80, although the match was not played]), Railways (Twice), Haryana (Once), Hyderabad (Once) and Tamil Nadu (Once).
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