Mumbai (Hindustan Times): It looks like the stars are finally smiling on the Ranji Trophy. The Indian cricket board officials couldn’t have dreamed of a better opening for their premier domestic tournament than the one they will get on November 2, for they will have the entire star cast of Indian cricket lined up for the domestic tournament.
If Mumbai will have Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane in their home game against Railways, Delhi will have Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma against Uttar Pradesh.
Punjab’s Ranji hopes also got a boost after India off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and southpaw Yuvraj Singh were named in the state squad. While Harbhajan has been given the responsibility of leading the side, Yuvraj has confirmed his availability for at least the first two rounds.
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It is another matter that the reason for these big names’ show of interest in playing the opening games is linked to the England Tests series at home starting on November 15.
Those who are certain of their place in the squad are looking at it as an opportunity to gain match fitness, while others see it as a chance to stake claim to the national squad.
Many a time, Tendulkar has turned up for his home team in the semifinal or final, but it will be one of those rare occasions when he will be part of the opening fixture. The master has been forced to include the match in his preparation plan to overcome rustiness. After a below-par showing against New Zealand, the pressure is on him to start strongly against England.
“There’s no substitute to match practice. One long innings in a match is equal to one month of batting in the nets. Playing the Ranji game will be the ideal preparation for Tendulkar. Having him in the side will be great for the Mumbai team as well; they cannot hope for a better start to the season,” said former Mumbai coach Praveen Amre.
Yuvraj has staked a strong claim to Test recall with a double century for North Zone in the Duleep Trophy semifinals against Central, and the Ranji games will provide him with another opportunity to impress the selectors.
“Technically, I have three 4-day games (the Duleep Trophy semifinal and two Ranji Trophy matches) before the team for the England series is announced,” Yuvraj had said a few days back.
Among the Delhi boys, all eyes will be on Sehwag, Gambhir and Ishant Sharma.
For Kohli, it is about match practice but the selectors will be following the performance of the three seniors. The opening partnership of Sehwag and Gambhir hasn’t clicked for long and Sharma’s strike-rate in the England and Australia series.