Vidarbha eye an encore

Vidarbha eye an encore

KEY MAN: The in-form left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate (left) of Vidarbha will be a major threat to Rest of India in the Irani Cup. PTI File Photo

Rest of India captain Ajinkya Rahane will be hoping to keep himself in the mix for World Cup selection as he leads a formidable Rest of India (RoI) against Ranji Trophy champions Vidarbha in the Irani Cup starting from Tuesday.

For Vidarbha, the aim will be to do an encore of the 2017-18 season where they won both Ranji Trophy and Irani Cup.

However, it will be easier said than done against a Rest of India batting line-up that boasts of current Test vice-captain Rahane, opener Mayank Agarwal, the dashing Shreyas Iyer and Hanuma Vihari in their ranks.

Rahane, who played three List 'A' matches against England Lions with two half-centuries to his credit, is fighting for the reserve opener's slot.

For Agarwal, Iyer and Vihari, it will get them good game time as they would have little motivation considering they are not in the scheme of things as far as the World Cup is concerned.

While Irani Cup is a five-day game and a good knock will help Rahane grab eyeballs as selectors zero in on the couple of slots available.

Umesh to miss

For Vidarbha, this Ranji season has been more of team work than individual brilliance. And their coach Chandrakant Pandit would be keen that his boys carry on this trend in the Irani Cup even though senior pacer Umesh Yadav will be missing due to a niggle.

Umesh has been advised rest and is expected to be replaced by Yash Thakur.

However, all the other prominent names including the 41-year-old Wasim Jaffer, left-arm spinner Aditya Sarwate, wicket-keeper batsman Akshay Wadkar and seamer Rajneesh Gurbani will be available.

They will have their task cut out against RoI line-up which is more batting heavy with another talented domestic performer Anmolpreet Singh and India 'A' regular Ishan Kishan to complement the senior internationals.

The bowling is slightly on the weaker side with Ankit Rajpoot of UP, Rajasthan's Tanveer ul Haq and Kerala's Sandeep Warrier being the new ball bowlers. The spin department will be led by Saurashtra's Dharmendra Jadeja and off-spinner K Gowtham.

For this hosts, apart from Jaffer, they will be banking on their skipper Faiz Fazal and opener Sanjay Ramaswamy.

Sarwate, who was the player of the match in the final, is a handy all-rounder. He dismissed the in-form Cheteshwar Pujara, in both innings during the Ranji Trophy final and would be aiming to dislodge Rahane, who has had more problems against slow bowlers compared to faster ones in recent years.