Nagpur: All eyes will be on middle order batsman and Rest of India skipper V V S Laxman and Ranji Champions Baroda's speedster Rakesh Patel when the two teams clash in the five-day Irani Trophy cricket match, which gets underway at Vidarbha Cricket Association (VCA) Ground in Nagpur on Saturday.
With no rains during the last 48 hours and Sun shining brightly on Friday morning, the officials in Nagpur appear confident of a prompt start. However, the weather bureau has predicted partly cloudy sky with chances of thunderstorms during night. The match, shifted to Nagpur from Pune on a short notice following heavy rains in Pune last week, would be a test of fitness for Rest of India skipper V V S Laxman, who recently returned from Australia after knee surgery. He will need a good innings here to enhance his claims for a place in the forthcoming Test series against South Africa next month. Besides skipper Laxman, Mumbai opener Vinayak Mane, Dinesh Mongia, Hrishikesh Kanitkar and Debashish Mohanty are some of the fringe players who could stake claim for higher honours. Baroda on the other hand has once again the tried and tested Nayan Mongia to head its list of aspirants. Mongia will look forward for a useful performance. Skipper and opener C Williams and paceman Rakesh Patel are the only contenders in the run for major honours. However, the Ranji champions, without their spearhead Zaheer Khan (recovering from a tissue inflammation), but with a blend of youth and experience, are looking forward to match the Rest of India squad. Baroda's star performers Khan and Jacob Martin - who is doing duty for India in South Africa - are not available for this match. "Khan needs seven to eight more days to recover fully and we didn't bring him here as we did not want to spoil his chances for the forthcoming Test series in South Africa," Baroda coach Vinit Wadkar told reporters at the nets on Friday. Baroda, who had a dream year, winning the Ranji Trophy last year, will be making its Irani Trophy debut in Nagpur. Rakesh Solanki, Hardik Parmar and Hrishikesh Parab have replaced Khan, Ajit Bhoite, who is also unfit, and Martin respectively. National selectors, led by chairman Chandu Borde (West Zone), will be watching the youngsters during the five-day event. Borde has already arrived in Nagpur while Shivlal Yadav (South) and Ashok Malhotra (East) are expected to be in Nagpur soon. The wicket is bound to assist the pacers during the early stages and will progressively aid batsmen. Former Ranji trophy skipper of Vidarbha Suhash Phadkar, now an umpire, will be performing his duty on home ground in a major domestic cricket for the first time. Nagpur will be hosting Irani Trophy for the third time, the other two being in 1975 and 1985. Doordarshan will telecast the match Live, while highlights will be shown in the evening. Former Indian coach Anshuman Gaekwad will be seen in a new role as commentator. Extras: Post your views