| Vinod Kambli stretches his neck as Sachin Tendulkar looks on during a practice session in Chennai on Wednesday. (AFP)
When the national selectors picked the Rest squad last week, they decided that Murali Kartik, Amit Bhandari and Rohan Gavaskar would sit out in Chennai. However, if Zaheer Khan is unfit, then the Delhi seamer will get an opportunity to prove his worth, adds Our Special Correspondent, now in Mumbai.
Chennai: A high-voltage contest is on the cards when Mumbai, led by Sachin Tendulkar, lock horns with Rest of India, under Sourav Ganguly’s leadership, in the five-day TVS-Irani Trophy match commencing here on Thursday.
For cricket enthusiasts here, it is more of a contest between the Master Blaster and the India skipper than a clash between two teams... And both will strive to win the match.
The BCCI’s decision to hold the prestigious match as a kick-start to the domestic first-class season has gained significance because a full-fledged Indian side will be playing for the Irani Trophy after a gap of ten years.
In the recent past Ranji Trophy champions were forced to play against second string Rest of India teams as the top players were either not available or chose to skip the event.
The five-day event also provides an ideal platform for the cricketers to book their berth for the coming Test series against New Zealand.
The Ranji champions have the unenviable task of facing up to a strong Rest of India side. Sourav’s team boasts of a strong batting line-up headed by the skipper and Rahul Dravid, a bowling attack led by speedster Zaheer Khan and the spin duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, almost Team India’s bowling attack!
Sachin expects total commitment and made all his young teammates sweat it out at the practice session for over four hours on Tuesday. He also made it clear that Mumbai would go all out for a win. “The whole idea is to win this important tie for Mumbai,” he said.
Sachin asked the youngsters not to set any goals for themselves. Instead, they should go about the task at the moment and added that consistency was the most important factor for anyone to shine in cricket. On Vinod Kambli’s comeback to the Mumbai side, Sachin said: “It is a team game. The entire team management of Mumbai Cricket Association is behind him. We expect a solid performance from him”.
Kambli along with Wasim Jaffer and Nishit Shetty are the other recognised batsmen in the Mumbai team.It should be noted that Shetty had won the Ranji Trophy final for Mumbai this April with a second innings hundred against Tamil Nadu.
As compared to Mumbai, the Rest of India opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Sanjay Bangar will have to resist the quality new ball attack of Ajit Agarkar and Avishkar Salvi as well as off spinner Ramesh Powar. Sehwag had opted out of the Challenger Series due to a back injury.
India vice-captain Rahul Dravid said he placed the Ranji final above Irani Trophy.
“I am not belittling the Irani Trophy, which is the season opener, but Ranji Trophy final will always be special for me. But this game is important as it comes before a series against the New Zealanders,” he said.
Mumbai (from): Sachin Tendulkar (captain), Wasim Jaffer, Nishit Shetty, Vinod Kambli, Vinayak Mane, Bhavin Thakkar, Vinayak Samant, Ajit Agarkar, Sairaj Bahutule, Ramesh Powar, Avishkar Salvi, Nilesh Kulkarni, Swapnil Hazare, Vinit Indulkar, Robin Morris.
Rest of India (likely): Sourav Ganguly (captain), Virender Sehwag, Sanjay Bangar, Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan/ (Amit Bhandari), Lakshmipathi Balaji.
Umpires: Jasbir Singh and Vijay Chopra.