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Acid test for Bhajji, Gauti

Bangalore: Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir face a stern test as the duo will aim at resurrecting their international careers when Rest of India take on Ranji Trophy champions Karnataka in the Irani Cup, here on Sunday.

All eyes will be on Harbhajan and Gambhir as they would be keen to show the national selectors that they are still good enough to perform at the highest level.

With Ravichandran Ashwin’s lack of skills while bowling in unfamiliar conditions against better batting sides being thoroughly exposed, it’s time that Harbhajan pulls up all the ‘tweaker’s tricks’ up his sleeves against a quality batting line-up.

Karnataka boast of domestic heavyweights like Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey along with latest batting sensation Lokesh Rahul and young Karun Nair.

Similarly for Gambhir, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay’s inconsistent performances mean that he is very much in the mix. A solid knock against the pace trio of Abhimanyu Mithun, R Vinay Kumar and Sreenath Aravind will boost his confidence and keep him in the selection fray.

Kedar Jadhav’s performance will be certainly monitored with a lot of interest by Sandip Patil and Co. With 1,223 runs in the recently-concluded Ranji Trophy, the 28-year-old Maharashtra batsman would also be eyeing for a revenge having failed to win the national title.

Jadhav vs Rahul will be an interesting battle as the top two run-getters fight it out to assert their supremacy.

Similarly, Pankaj Singh and Ashoke Dinda, who have consistently done well for their respective states Rajasthan and Bengal, will be aiming to do well keeping a long season in mind.

With Varun Aaron also in the side, it will be difficult for Anureet Singh to break into the playing XI as Rest might go with three pacers and two spinners.

Aaron would like to bowl long spells at a brisk pace without breaking down as it would be an indicator as to whether he can be persisted in longer formats as well.

The fight for the second spinner’s slot will be between Amit Mishra and Parvez Rasool. While a specialist off-spinner in Harbhajan leading the side, Mishra will be favourite to don second spinner’s role as Karnataka do not have too many left-handers in their line-up.

For Karnataka, Stuart Binny will come back in the XI and Amit Verma is likely to get dropped. With Rahul, Ganesh Sathish, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair amongst runs, Verma becomes the likely candidate to be left out even though he had scored an impressive ton against Punjab in the semi-final of the Ranji Trophy.With the Asia Cup coming up later this month followed by World T20, a couple of places in the national team might just be up for grabs which is a good enough incentive for some of the players to give their best shot.

Karnataka captain R Vinay Kumar said his side has an advantage as it has been been playing as an unit, unlike their opponents who have come together to play this one-off match.

“Rest of India is a good side. But we have been playing as a team throughout the season, whereas they have only come together now from different states,” Vinay said. “They will need time to gel as a group. That is when we can take advantage. We have played as a family.

“No matter how good those players are, it will not be easy coming from different states and playing now. We have not lost a single game and our confidence is high,” he added.