Irani Cup: All eyes on Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh as Rest of India face Karnataka
For Gautam Gambhir, inconsistent performances from Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay means that the Delhi veteran is very much in the mix. A solid knock against the pace trio of Abhimanyu Mithun, R Vinay Kumar and Sreenath Aravind will boost his confidence and keep him in the selection fray.
Veterans Harbhajan Singh and Gautam Gambhir face a stern test as the duo will aim at resurrecting their international careers when Rest of India take on Ranji Trophy champions Karnataka in the Irani Cup, in Bangalore on Sunday. (Read: I'm as good as a 20-year-old, says Harbhajan)
All eyes will be on Harbhajan and Gambhir as they would be itching to show the national selectors that they are still good enough to perform at the highest level.
With Ravichandran Ashwin's lack of skills while bowling in unfamiliar conditions against better batting sides being thoroughly exposed, its time that Harbhajan pulls up all the 'tweaker's tricks' up his sleeves against a quality batting line-up.
Harbhajan will be itching to perform against a side that boasts of domestic heavyweights like Robin Uthappa, Manish Pandey along with latest batting sensation Lokesh Rahul and young Karun Nair.
Similarly for Gambhir, Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay's inconsistent performances means that he is very much in the mix. A solid knock against the pace trio of Abhimanyu Mithun, R Vinay Kumar and Sreenath Aravind will boost his confidence and keep him in the selection fray.
The game is expected to be an interesting one with some of the top performers in domestic cricket ready to battle it out there in the middle.
Kedar Jadhav's performance will be certainly monitored with a lot of interest by Sandip Patil and Co. With 1,223 runs in the recently concluded Ranji Trophy including a stroke-filled century in the final, the 28-year-old Maharashtra batsman would also be eyeing for a revenge having failed to win the national title.
Jadhav vs Rahul will be an interesting battle as the top two run-getters fight it out to assert their supremacy.
Similarly, Pankaj Singh and Ashoke Dinda, who have consistently done well for their respective states Rajasthan and Bengal, will be aiming to do well keeping a long season in mind. For Pankaj, it will practically be his last chance to grab selectors' attention.
With Varun Aaron also in the side, it will be difficult for Anureet Singh to break into the playing XI as Rest might go with three pacers and two spinners.
Aaron would like to bowl long spells at a brisk pace without breaking down as it would be an indicator as to whether he can be persisted in longer formats as well.
The fight for the second spinner's slot will be between Amit Mishra and Parveez Rasool. While a specialist off-spinner in Harbhajan leading the side, Mishra will be favourite to don second spinner's role as Karnataka do not have too many left-handers in their line-up.
For Karnataka, Stuart Binny will come back in the XI and Amit Verma is likely to get dropped. With Rahul, Ganesh Sathish, Manish Pandey, Karun Nair amongst runs, Verma becomes the likely candidate to be left out even though he had scored an impressive ton against Punjab in the semi-final of the Ranji Trophy.
With the Asia Cup in Bangladesh coming up later this month followed by World T20, a couple of places in the national team might just be up for grabs which is a good enough incentive for some of the players to give their best shot.