The teams for the Irani Trophy and the Challenger Trophy, the traditional curtain-raisers for the cricket season in India, have been announced. By and large, the teams are good and sound in what is expected to be a good season in India; one in which several Team India stars are expected to turn out, somewhat unexpectedly, for their home states.
The Rest of India team features two Team India players who are on their comeback from injury: Virender Sehwag and Sree Santh. Zaheer Khan is still on the mend and so it appears as though it will be a while yet before we see him in action for India.
Cheteshwar Pujara is another notable absentee. He had an amazing run in last years’ Ranji Trophy and went onto the injury bench just prior to this year’s IPL. He misses out because he he is till injured.
A notable and exciting inclusion is young TN opener, Abhinav Mukund, who gets a call on the back of a successful Ranji season. He may not play, given the presence of M. Vijay and Virender Sehwag as openers. However, this is a step in the right direction for this young left-hander.
Two notable exclusions are Parhiv Patel and Mohammed Kaif! The former has been edged out by the exciting talents of Wriddhiman Saha and the 22-year old, Punjab ‘keeper, Uday Kaul. However, this non-selection must come as a rude shock for Mohammed Kaif in both the Irani game as well as the 3 Challenger teams! Remember that Mohammed Kaif is a contracted Team India player! This non-selection, on the back of the fact that he did not get selected for the Rajasthan Royals in this year’s IPL, must be a blow to the young man, who must wonder where his career is at.
Kaif has probably been edged out by 24-year old Pune batsman, Kedar Jadhav. Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel get a chance to reconstruct their Team India prospects through this Irani game.
I expect the following Rest of India (probable team):
M. Vijay / Abhinav Mukund
Manoj Tiwary / Kedar Jadhav
Wriddhiman Saha / Uday Kaul
S Sreesanth / Sudeep Tyagi
The Mumbai team for the Irani Trophy sports a healthy look under the leadership of Wasim Jaffer and with the presence of Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane. Prashant Naik gets a look in given that Amol Muzumdar has moved in the off-season to Assam! The probable Mumbai Team is:
Vinayak Samant / Sushant Marathe
Rahil Shaikh / Murtuza Hussain / Saurabh Netravalkar
OJ Khanvilkar / Iqbal Abdulla
This should be a cracker of a contest and should set the scene for the rest of the India season.
The Challenger Trophy squads:
Yuvraj Singh (capt.)
Saurabh Tiwary / Harshad Khadiwale
Wriddhiman Saha (wk)
R Ashwin / Ishank Jaggi
Sudeep Tyagi / Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Parthiv Patel / Uday Kaul (wk)
Suresh Raina (capt.)
Manoj Tiwary / Ravi Inder Singh
Chetanya Nanda / Sadab Jakati
MS Dhoni (capt.)
Kedar Jadhav / Dhiraj Goswami
Yusuf Pathan / Jalaj Saxena
Ashok Dinda / Suresh Kumar
A few surprises here. First, while it is nice to see Suresh Raina’s elevation to captaincy, is it a bit too early for him? Does he really have captaincy material? Second, it is interesting to note that, as I have pointed out before, Mohammed Kaif can’t find a place amongst the best 42 players in the land! Mind you, this set of 42 players does not include players from The Bangalore Royal Challengers players (like Robin Uthappa, Praveen Kumar and Rahul Dravid) and The Deccan Chargers players (like V. V. S. Laxman, R. P. Singh, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Tirumalasetti Suman and Venugopal Rao) who are playing in the Challengers because the Champions League will be on at the same time as The Challengers. This means that Mohammed Kaif is not amongst the 51 best ODI players in the land? And he still carries a central contract? Baffling…
The teams look well balanced and will be a nice selection platform for the endless series of ODIs against Australia.