The five-day Irani Cup match between Mumbai and the Rest of India, commencing at the Wankhede Stadium here today, offers a good chance for some players to press for recalls and other aspirants to showcase their talent in front of the national selectors.
Rest of India (RoI), led by Virender Sehwag, has a good all-round team on paper and the list includes Harbhajan Singh and S. Sreesanth.
The rest outfit also contains openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay either of who can open with Sehwag and push for berths in the Test team to take on Australia later this month. Vijay was the third opener in the Test series against England without playing a game while Dhawan could force his way in with a solid display as replacement for under-performing Delhi mate Gautam Gambhir.
Sehwag, a certainty for the opening Test at Chennai from February 22, would also be eager to get among the runs against a good Mumbai attack spearheaded by Dhawal Kulkarni after being cold-shouldered for the one-day series against England.
Abhishek to lead Mumbai
Mumbai would be led by Abhishek Nayar in the absence of the injured Ajit Agarkar. Consistent domestic performer Wasim Jaffer is in the mix of openers, though the 34-year-old last played for India in a Test at Kanpur five years ago against South Africa.
There are also middle-order aspirants from both sides — opener Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma from Mumbai and Suresh Raina and Manoj Tiwari, from the Rest ranks. Senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar would get another chance to get into the groove for the Australia series after being run out cheaply in the Ranji final against Saurashtra.
Two bowlers whose performance will be keenly watched are Harbhajan and Sreesanth. Both feisty cricketers would be keen to push their claims for an India Test slot. Sreesanth has been out of cricket action with injuries for a long time. How he shapes up in the golden chance he has got to press for Test selection would be interesting to watch.
There are some young pace hopefuls from both teams — Kulkarni from Mumbai and Shami Ahmed and Ishwar Pandey from RoI — trying to catch the selectors' nod.
This would be the second Irani Cup tie to be held this season, done to accommodate the change of tournament schedule recommended by the Cricket Board's technical committee.PTI