The Irani Trophy, otherwise forgotten, has suddenly become a high profile domestic tournament. Nothing like a few stars to dazzle the sky? The test for the Indians begins much before October. Beginning tomorrow, the Iran Trophy could well point to who takes the field. The Australians, no doubt, will be watching this one with glee.
Much has been said, read and heard about Sourav Ganguly’s exclusion in the Rest of India (ROI) squad. However, what matters is that there will be eleven other players taking the field tomorrow and at least one of them will be thinking his next break will come against Australia on October 9th. This is not to say the selectors have closed the door on Ganguly. But they will certainly have their eyes wide open.
The Australians will be watching this one in anticipation because the Indian team is yet to lose the rust that accompanied them on the tour to Sri Lanka. It is not for want of match practice that they performed dismally in Sri Lanka. Rather the Australians, light as they are on their luggage of knowledge and experience, will look to exploit every snail-like sluggish performance, especially if it comes from the Indian top order. Jason Gillespie has hinted as much and perhaps he is also trying to throw the Indians of the scent of any new plans the Australians may be developing.
But coming back to the Irani Trophy match, even if it is not do-or-die for the all players in the ROI squad, it is also a tuning up to the series ahead and every batsman would like to have runs under his belt and bowlers their rhythm in addition to wickets. Prominent among these will be Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman who have little to prove in terms of their merit but lot to gain from gaining form and momentum ahead of the Australians. Ganguly’s omission will seem larger tomorrow if these players under perform although their position is unlikely to come under immediate threat.
With Sachin Tendulkar’s absence forced on by injury, Subramaniam Badrinath now relinquishes his captaincy of the India A team due to play Australia A tomorrow in a bid to make a place for himself in the Test line up. To be able to do that especially by convincing the selectors in this Irani Trophy tie would be phenomenal for the man from Tamil Nadu. He is certainly knocking on the door and with Yuvraj Singh not looking comfortable with the Test match scenario entirely, Badrinath’s break may be sooner than expected. Mohammad Kaif has earned himself a spot and could get the nod ahead of Badrinath as well simply because of his intermittent brush with international cricket. How these two men exploit their opportunities will also decide on India’s Test future. But dreams have to be put on hold and the nose to the grindstone.
He and the rest of the ROI line up will be tested by the bowling headed by Ishant Sharma. For the ROI, Zaheer Khan is the frontrunner but the selectors will need some convincing from Munaf Patel and R.P. Singh to make sure they are completely fit to take on the might of the Australians. Ashish Nehra’s name is floating and it will be interesting how he comes back from wilderness and if Irani Trophy has a place for him. Ashoke Dinda is in the squad but whether he will actually be allowed to run in remains a distant thought. The fact that the Irani Trophy line up for both teams is looking heavy with international players available for this crucial tie makes the fate of some of the players even more significant because they will be tested against so-called international quality.
The opener’s slot, for a change, looks set for team India. Gautam Gambhir has proved foil and fodder for Virender Sehwag and it would take an entirely unwise decision to break up this team. Wasim Jaffer knows what he is up against and perhaps a big score will keep him in the picture should a third opener be required in the course of the four Test series against Australia and later against England.
The wicket keeping slot is also not vacant. But Parthiv Patel’s ambition to establish himself in the team even as a batsman will require a gargantuan effort and still perhaps keep him away from the spotlight now taken up by the one day skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. In that, perhaps the selectors are not broadening their horizons to look for another potential opener, keeping the future in mind. It appears that the name are circulating around. Aakash Chopra stopping being part of the selectors’ plans a few years ago but his last series down under would have brought back memories that could ignite his innings tomorrow for Delhi. Sparks could fly with the two openers and a more relaxed, carefree Chopra to follow them.
Speaking of skippers, Anil Kumble will be looking to rediscover his touch after his rather abysmal figures on the tour to Sri Lanka. He would also need to put a stop on the speculation of his own form and the impending successor in Dhoni. Kumble is not fighting to keep the captaincy as things stand. But he could well point out how much time there is before the baton changes hand and the Irani Trophy will be expected then be a warm up exercise to keep the baton in hand longer.
With more players in this match alone, it is a warm up for the cricket spectators as well in Baroda as they look to watch the stars come out, in the day time.
On Sachin and Sourav and more on the Irani Trophy, read: