As the prestigious Irani Cup kicks off between Ranji champions Mumbai and the Rest of India, we give you a lowdown on the players to watch out for during the crucial clash, which may have a significant bearing on the Indian side that is selected for the Australia series.
Abhishek Nayar: These are great times for Nayar. After playing an important role in Mumbai’s victorious Ranji campaign and bagging a handsome IPL price, he now gets a chance to lead Mumbai in the big game in the absence of the injured Ajit Agarkar. Nayar has not really been considered Test material as yet, and is seen more as a batting all-rounder for the one-day format. That said, he has the ability to play the big knocks and get crucial wickets as well. If he performs against the best Indian cricketers in the world at present, there is no reason why he shouldn’t be elevated to the Test level.
Dhawal Kulkarni: He has been on the fringes of Test selection for a couple of seasons now, but somehow hasn’t made the cut. Kulkarni has bowled exceptionally well this season, and with the fair degree of pace, particularly in the closing stages of the Ranji encounters. He was the wrecker-in-chief in the final, and was more than handy in the semis as well. With the Indian team looking for a fresh face in the jaded bowling outfit, Kulkarni has an opportunity to put his name on top of the list.
Sachin Tendulkar: Per se, Tendulkar has nothing to prove. But the fact that he has chosen to play this key game means he is keen to be part of the Australia series. As everyone is aware, the legend isn’t having a great time in international cricket. Having just retired from ODIs, he would be keen to keep performing at the Test level. A couple of good knocks in the Irani tie would do his confidence no harm, and also give the selectors arelief of sorts over having to ponder upon his place.
Virender Sehwag: It’s now or never for the Indian opener. He may get picked for the Australia series even if he doesn’t get runs in this Irani Trophy clash. But, if he does manage to blast a hundred in typical fashion, Sehwag’s confidence will get a boost going into a big series, possibly a make or break one for him. Being the leader of the pack, Sehwag will also get a chance to display is captaincy skills.
S Sreesanth: In a sense, the Kerala speedster will be competing with Kulkarni in the Mumbai squad for a pacer’s spot. Sreesanth has had a mixed international career so far, and has only just recovered from injury. The selectors would be damn curious to witness what he has to offer.
Harbhajan Singh: The man who claimed India can beat Australia 4-0 will have a major point to prove in the contest against Mumbai. Bhajji was far from convincing on his Test comeback against England although it must be said he wasn’t given a long enough run to be judged. He gets a chance again. Can he make it count though?
--By A Cricket Analyst