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Viru to lead Rest of India

Manoj Tiwary

Calcutta/Jaipur: With the tough series against Australia coming up, the selection committee has given Virender Sehwag an opportunity to fine tune his skills as the opener was Tuesday named the captain of the Rest of India (ROI) squad for the Airtel Irani Cup match against Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai.

The match will be held at the Wankhede Stadium, from February 6 to 10.

Sehwag had been dropped from India’s ODI team for the series against England due to poor form. But with Ajinkya Rahane and Gautam Gambhir not doing exceptionally well at the top of the order, Sehwag remains in the scheme of things.

Sehwag will lead a 14-member squad, which includes Manoj Tiwary, Harbhajan Singh and Sreesanth.

Manoj, who is making a comeback from injury, has been included in the Rest of India as well as India A squad that will take on Australia.

“It’s certainly a good news for me to be selected in the Rest of India and India A squads. I find myself with yet another opportunity to make a mark and create an impression. I’m confident of being successful in these matches,” Manoj said on Thursday.

The middle-order batsman said he is using the CAB league matches to get back to form. “I feel my batting is getting better… I’m trying to make full use of the local league matches. This is the only way I can keep myself prepared,” he said.

He, however, is not thinking about Australia at the moment. “It’s too early to think about Australia or their bowling attack... Have to plan my game and get myself prepared after I know what squad they are bringing. Till then, I’m focused only on the present,” Manoj added.

Sreesanth, the other comeback man, said that he is fit and raring to go. “I bowled more than 150 overs in three Ranji matches which I played this season and I feel I am fully fit. The last season went in drain for me, as I faced many injuries.

“But I’m not scared and won’t compromise on speed. I still want to bowl fast. I have reduced my run up from 36 to 23 yards and feel confident,” Sreesanth said..

“I want to make the most of these opportunities. I know making a comeback into Indian team will not be easy but my job is to give my best,” he added.

According to the squad announced by the BCCI, after the selection committee met in Bangalore on Thursday, there are six batsmen, six bowlers, one all-rounder (Jalaj Saxena) and a wicketkeeper (Wriddhiman Saha).

Bengal’s Shami Ahmed, who impressed in the series against Pakistan and England, has also been included in the squad.

Apart from the Rest of India squad, the selectors have also picked the Board President’s XI and the India A squads for practice matches against the Australians.

Left-handed Tamil Nadu opener Abhinav Mukund will lead the Board President’s XI side against Australia in a two-day game, in Chennai, on February 12-13.

Promising Jammu and Kashmir all-rounder Parveez Rasool has also been rewarded with a place in the Board President’s XI squad.

The India A team to take on Australia in a three-day match in Chennai from February 16, will be captained by Delhi left-hander Shikhar Dhawan.

Punjab opener Jiwanjot Singh, who scored five centuries in this season’s Ranji Trophy, has been included in the India A squad.