Tag Archives: Irani

Irani Trophy and Challengers

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.

Irani Trophy

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
Virender Sehwag
Virat Kohli
S Badrinath
Manoj Tiwary / Kedar Jadhav
Ravindra Jadeja
Wriddhiman Saha / Uday Kaul
Irfan Pathan
S Sreesanth / Sudeep Tyagi
Munaf Patel
Pragyan Ojha

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:

Wasim Jaffer
Sahil Kukreja
Ajinkya Rahane
Rohit Sharma
Prashant Naik
Vinayak Samant / Sushant Marathe
Ajit Agarkar
Ramesh Powar
Dhawal Kulkarni
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.

Challenger Trophy:

The Challenger Trophy squads:

India Red:
M Vijay
Sunny Sohal
Shikhar Dhawan
Yuvraj Singh (capt.)
Saurabh Tiwary / Harshad Khadiwale
Ravindra Jadeja
Wriddhiman Saha (wk)
R Ashwin / Ishank Jaggi
Sudeep Tyagi / Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Munaf Patel
Ishant Sharma

India Green:
Parthiv Patel / Uday Kaul (wk)
Tanmay Srivastava
Ajinkya Rahane
Suresh Raina (capt.)
S Badrinath
Manoj Tiwary / Ravi Inder Singh
Irfan Pathan
L Balaji
Dhawal Kulkarni
Pankaj Singh
Chetanya Nanda / Sadab Jakati

India Blue:
Sachin Tendulkar
Wasim Jaffer
MS Dhoni (capt.)
Naman Ojha
Kedar Jadhav / Dhiraj Goswami
Abhishek Nayar
Yusuf Pathan / Jalaj Saxena
Harbhajan Singh
Siddharth Trivedi
Sreesanth
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.

— Mohan

Pointers from the Irani Trophy game…

Unless Gautam Gambhir and Aakash Chopra are able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, the 2008 edition of the Irani Trophy seems to be headed irrevocably to the cabinet of Team RoI.

The Irani Trophy has, in the past, been of significance for several players. I remember Dilip Vengsarkar and Kapil Dev using an Irani edition to propel their international careers.

With the Australia tour just around the corner and with some questions being asked of the Indian middle order, there was a similar opportunity in this edition for S. Badrinath and Mohammed Kaif. While I cannot say that Badrinath blew his chances, I don’t believe he enhanced his reputation too much. Having said this, he did make a composed 36 in the second dig. However, Mohammed Kaif, it must be said, has something missing in his internal circuitry. After getting out to an ugly hoik in the first innings, he had few answers in the second dig in a very short stay at the crease (out for a duck off his second ball). Wasim Jaffer did make a composed 50 in the first innings. However, I can’t see the selectors dislodge the Sehwag-Gambhir opening combination.

It was odd to see Rahul Dravid walk in as the RoI opener! As I mentioned in this blog a few weeks back when the RoI team was chosen, the team did not have a regular opener to partner Wasim Jaffer. When the initial team was announced, Parthiv Patel looked the likely opener. However, that option was discarded in favour of Dravid walking out with Wasim Jaffer.

Munaf Patel impressed for RoI. In Delhi’s first innings, Munaf Patel had fire, fluency and pace that made him a sit-up-and-notice bowler when he first hit the scene. He ran through the crease really smoothly and was nagging in his accuracy almost always. He suddenly looks to be an improved bowler. I am not sure what he has been doing, but it has worked. With Zaheer Khan bowling well and with Ishant Sharma not flagging in the wake of the many shampoo adverts he has had to appear in, the India pace bowling stock looks reasonable. In Delhi’s first innings, Munaf Patel sledged out Aakash Chopra. For some reason, in that spell, Munaf Patel was constantly mouthing off at the Delhi batsmen. The umpire got involved too and seemed to have a word with Anil Kumble, the RoI captain. Soon after that, Aakash Chopra and Munaf Patel exchanged words. In the very next over Chopra edged to the slips and Munaf Patel proceeded to execute a war-dance in front of the departing batsman! This incident is not mentioned in Aakash Chopra’s blog post on the game — I must say that I like Chopra’s writing and am looking forward to reading his soon-to-be-completed book.

Delhi has lodged a complaint against Munaf Patel. The hearing on Saturday morning, to be held by match referee Rajinder Jadeja, will attended by Virender Sehwag and Anil Kumble.

And so, it may be tempting for Anil Kumble to go in with 5 bowlers and restrict the batting order to 5 batsmen and Dhoni (Sehwag, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Laxman, Dhoni) for the 1st Test against the visiting Australians! This would be a risky option, especially with Laxman’s poor-show and Tendulkar’s no-show in the Irani trophy! I’d still go with the Badrinath option to provide some cushion in the middle order. Aaah! If only Irfan Pathan knew how to hold his bowling together for 6 consecutive months!

Meanwhile, here is a thought! Aakash Chopra seems to be playing with hunger and determination. He also appears to be a different cricketer these days. He has brought in an urgency to his batting and is more keen to keep the scorers engaged and involved, when previously, they would have reached for the pillow when he came in to bat! Now, if he produces a stunning knock on day-4 of the ongoing Irani Trophy game to assist Delhi to pull one out of the hat, would it not be conceivabe to imagine the following Team India line up for the Tests against Australia?

Chopra, Gambhir, Dravid, Tendulkar, Sehwag, Laxman, Dhoni, Kumble, Harbhajan, Zaheer, Ishant

I do remember saying earlier on in this post, “I can’t see the selectors dislodge the Sehwag-Gambhir opening combination.” So yes. This is the romantic in me speaking. I do like Aakash Chopra’s gutsy approach to batting and fielding and would like to see him back in the mix for India one day.

Meanwhile Australia ‘A’ thrashed India ‘A’ in the tri-series final. The only thing this series confirmed is that Robin Uthappa and Dinesh Karthik imploded totally. The two of them need a fair bit of time off the limelight with their respective clubs and state teams.

— Mohan

Irani Tropy Team :: A preview to the India Vs Australia series…

The Irani Trophy match between The Rest of India (RoI) and the Ranji Trophy Champions (Delhi), the traditional season-opener, will be played between Sept 24 and Sept 28 this year.

The match takes on additional significance this year because it is just prior to an important series in India between India and Australia.

The Australians have been gearing up for this tour since the start of the year. After the tour of Australia by India from December 2007 to March 2008, it seems like much of Australia has trained its sights on this “revenge” tour.

Phrases like “the last frontier” have disappeared from the dictionary, to describe an India tour by the Australian cricket team! New phrases have been coined to give additional meaning, extra edge and significantly more teeth to this cricket tour! In recent days, Michael Hussey has termed the India tour as the “Everest” of cricket encounters! Brett Lee has fast-tracked his return from a self-imposed exile subsequent to his separation from his wife in order to declare himself mentally fit to tour India — a country where he is immensely popular despite the fact that he has not played a single Test match in that country!

After India’s tour of Australia in 2007-2008, Australia undertook a somewhat easy tour of the West Indies and played a meaningless ODI series against Bangladesh! India has had a busy time with a home series against South Africa, the IPL, a few ODIs against Pakistan, the Asia Cup and, more recently, a series against Sri Lanka.

There is clearly feeling in the Australia camp. India’s tour of Australia still rankles with folk in Australia! Truth be said. Australia won the Test series 2-1, although India did win the last instalment of the ODI Tri-Series that will be played in Australia! That must have hurt! But Australia did win the all-important Test series and retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. However, the nature of Australia’s victory in Sydney and MonkeyGate, the cliched-label that marked the aftermath of that victory in Sydney still leaves a sour taste in the mouth of most people associated with cricket in Australia and India! Why? Andrew Symonds’s alleged lackadaisical approach to his cricket since those infamous post-Sydney-Test spats have been put down to the aftermath of that Test match!

There are scores to be settled here! And so, this tour assumes greater significance. Despite Stuart Clarks’ posturing that notions of tension between the Australia and India players is just a creation by the media, one must assume that there is feeling in both camps.

Not that all of this is necessarily bad for world cricket. In my view, a good fight is good for cricket as long as it is all above board!

Australia’s preparation lead up to the tour of India has not been that great. Australia is in the search for a spinner — any spinner! Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden are on the injury list. It is not clear that they will be fighting fit before the start of the tour. Brett Lee has been shaken up recently as a result of his own personal issues. Andrew Symonds is currently AWOL. Australia also has a new wicket-keeper and its pace bowlers did not exactly set the ground alight in Darwin against Bangladesh!

The only saving grace for Australia is that India has as many questions to ask of its own stock as Australia has! Most of these questions surround the Fab Four — or Five!

The tour of Sri Lanka asked these searching questions. Although most of these questions were asked by a young novice spinner bowling in tandem with a wily old fox of a spinner, the questions were indeed asked. Sadly there weren’t (m)any convincing answers from India! Surprisingly, the Fab Four lapsed into a journey of extreme and inexplicable introspection, self-doubt and self-inquiry. This showed in the tentativeness of their collective batting. Anil Kumble, too, had more questions than answers; more frowns than smiles!

But the establishment in India has taken its first, tentative steps towards finding a way out to the future. The selectino committee, in what is perhaps a pointer to the future, has dropped Sourav Ganguly from the Rest of India team to take on Delhi in the Irani Trophy.

This was a brave move. A long-overdue move, in my view. But still, a brave move. Effigy makers in Kolkata are possibly rubbing their hands in glee already!

Given that Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Ishant Sharma are almost sure to make Team India from the Delhi side, there could be one middle order place up for grabs in the Team India line up. And that person could be Mohammed Kaif who grabbed an opportunity to make an impression last week, with a stylish 94 for India ‘A’ against Australia ‘A’.

Interestingly, apart from Wasim Jaffer, the RoI side is without a regular ‘opener’! This perhaps gives rise to the suggestion that the selectors aren’t really keen on disturbing the Sehwag-Gambhir combination that did so well in Sri Lanka. Perhaps Wasim Jaffer is there in the RoI side just to make up the numbers! In all likelihood, Parthiv Patel will walk out with Jaffer to open the batting for RoI. I would like M. S. Dhoni to sit out this match. This will give the team an opportunity to test out Kaif in the #6 spot against a strong Delhi bowling attack. A surprise pick to the RoI side is Ashok Dinda from Kolkata! He makes it ahead of Pankaj Singh (who went to Australia as part of the Test team), Praveen Kumar and a bevy of others. Perhaps this is so as to keep the effigy makers in Kolkata a bit confused and unsure!

Wasim Jaffer
Parthiv Patel (wk)
Rahul Dravid
Sachin Tendulkar
VVS Laxman
Mohammed Kaif
Harbhajan Singh
Anil Kumble (Capt)
Pragyan Ojha
Zaheer Khan
Munaf Patel / RP Singh / Ashok Dinda

12th Man: MS Dhoni (wk),

Overall, in my view, this is a necessary step in the right direction. A brave step too…

— Mohan