Ranji champion Mumbai has the incentive to win another trophy

India’s selectors are in search of competent replacements for the injured Umesh Yadav, Zaheer Khan and Varun Aaron.

The four-Test series against Australia will get off the ground in a fortnight’s time and there is palpable urgency shown by the selection committee in order to zero in on a couple of bowlers who can manipulate the new and old ball with purpose, skill and show abundant stamina. They have straightaway put the seam bowlers in the Rest of India on trial in the five-day Zal Irani Cup match to be played against the Ranji Trophy winner at the Wankhede Stadium from Wednesday.

Sandeep Patil and his committee will also get an opportunity to assess Mumbai’s Dhawal Kulkarni who has had a reasonable Ranji Trophy season. He took 30 wickets, 14 in the semi-finals and final.

Of the four seamers in the Rest team, the selectors will be keen to ascertain if S. Sreesanth still has the knack to swing the ball in the air and cut of the wicket, virtues that made him more than a handy bowler even on flat decks and returned him 87 wickets in 27 Test matches and 75 wickets in 53 One-Day Internationals.

Sreesanth was laid low by serious big-toe (both legs)-related injuries for 14 months. He tried ayurvedic treatment, underwent six surgeries to repair the big toes in London, spent many days in the wheelchair, rehabilitated himself at the NCA and finally returned to action in three Ranji Trophy matches last December.

With no good news coming from Yadav and Aaron and Zaheer Khan also suffering a calf strain, the selectors, as a desperate measure, picked the Kerala speedster for the one-day warm up game against England.

Expensive average

Sreesanth took eight wickets at an expensive average 61.63 in the English summer of 2011, which was also his last. He played the last ODI against Sri Lanka in April 2011. Sreesanth who will turn 30 on Wednesday (Feb. 6) has not been picked in the India ‘A’ team and BCCI President’s XI for the two warm-up games against Australia and hence his performance on many counts will be taken into account by the selectors before they choose the Indian team for the first Test against Australia scheduled to start at Chennai on Feb. 22.

Karnataka’s Abhimanyu Mithun is also in the mix and he should figure in the team sheet skipper Virender Sehwag will give to the Mumbai captain Abhishek Nayar at the toss.

Mithun’s selection in the Rest squad is a reiteration that the selectors look at him as a prospective partner for Ishant Sharma. The third seamer in the team is Bengal’s Mohammad Shami, who was quite impressive in the ODIs against England. It is unlikely that Madhya Pradesh’s Ishwar Pandey who took 48 wickets at a miserly 21.06 in eight Ranji Trophy matches this season will get a chance.

With the Indian Test squad likely to be chosen for a four-day camp before the conclusion of the Irani Cup, the selectors will look at options in the batting and bowling departments.

Openers Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay will be keen to get big runs. Manoj Tiwary returns for a competitive match after recuperating from back injury. Rohit Sharma, too will look forward to a good knock. Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar also sharpened their skills at the practice session on Tuesday morning.

Mumbai has the incentive to win another trophy after being crowned the National champion for the 40th time. It trained under Sulakshan Kulkarni while the Rest’s activities were supervised by selector Vikram Rathour. The pitch looks similar to the one prepared for the Ranji final against Saurashtra.

The teams (from): Rest of India: Virender Sehwag (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Manoj Tiwary, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Harbhajan Singh, S. Sreesanth, Pragyan Ojha, Ishwar Pandey, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ambati Rayudu, Mohammed Shami and Jalaj Saxena

Mumbai: Abhishek Nayar (captain), Wasim Jaffer, Kaustubh Pawar, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar, Hiken Shah, Aditya Tare, Surya Kumar Yadav, Ankeet Chavan, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shardul Thakur, Javed Khan and Vishal Dabholkar.

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