Chennai: A high voltage contest is on the cards when Mumbai led by ace batsman Sachin Tendulkar locks horns with Rest of India captained by India skipper Sourav Ganguly in the five-day TVS-Z R Irani Trophy match commencing on Thursday. For cricket enthusiasts here, it is more of a contest between master batsman Sachin Tendulkar and the stylish southpaw Sourav Ganguly than a clash between two teams and both will strive to win the match.
The cricket Board's decision to hold the prestigious tournament as a kick-start to the domestic first class game has gained significance now as after a gap of 10 years a full-fledged Indian side will be on view. In the recent past Ranji Trophy Champions were forced to play against second fiddle Rest of Indian teams as the top players were either not available or chose to skip the event. The five-day event also provides an ideal platform for the cricketers to book their berth for the coming Test series against New Zealand. As for the rival teams, the Ranji Champions has the unenviable task of facing up to a strong Rest of India side.
The Rest of India boasts of a strong batting line up headed by Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid and a bowling attack led by speedster Zaheer Khan and the spin duo of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh, almost India's bowling attack. However, Tendulkar would be looking to maintain a clean slate, having won all the 18 matches he has captained Mumbai so far. Tendulkar expected total commitment from his young team mates and made all the Mumbai players sweat it out at the practice session on Tuesday for over four hours. He also made it clear that Mumbai would go all out for a win. "I am now talking on behalf of the Mumbai team when I say that we are here to win. We will fight all the way.
The Rest of India team is very strong, it is almost the full India side but our youngsters are here to learn a lot from this match. The whole idea is to win this important tie for Mumbai". Tendulkar's close friend, Vinod Kambli is also back in the Mumbai squad. Kambli along with Wasim Jaffer, who has been a regular in first class teams for playing visiting sides,Nishit Shetty and the other recognized batmen in the Mumbai team should perform well for posting a challenging total to Rest of India. It should be noted that Shetty had won the Ranji trophy final for Mumbai this April with a second innings hundred against Tamil Nadu.
As compared to Mumbai, the Rest of India opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Sanjay Banger should resist the quality new ball attack of Ajit Agarkar and Avishkar Salvi as well as spinner Ramesh Pawar. Sehwag opted out of the Challenger Series due to a back injury. Other top batsmen in the Rest of India line up are V V S Laxman and Yuvraj Singh.
It remains to be seen whether Harbhajan Singh who did not play the second match in the Challenger Series after being hit on his bowling hand, will be at his peak form. Rest of India is the defending champion, having defeated Railways last year at Delhi. In all counts, an interesting contest is in the offing during the next five days, with weather permitting, as the city received a few showers late on Tuesday.
Teams (from): Mumbai: Sachin Tendulkar (capt), Wasim Jaffer, Nishit Shetty, Vinod Kambli, Vinayak Mane, Bhavin Thakkar, Vinayak Samant, Ajit Agarkar, Sairaj Bahutule, Ramesh Powar, Avishkar Salvi, Nilesh Kulkarni, Swapnil Hazare, Vinit Indulkar,Robin Morris.
Rest of India: Sourav Ganguly (capt),Virender Sehwag,Sanjay Bangar, Rahul Dravid, V V S Laxman, Yuvaraj Singh,Parthiv Patel, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan,Lakshmipathi Balaji, Murali Kartik, Amit Bhandarai, Rohan Gavaskar. Umpires: Jasbir Singh and Vijay Chopra. Third umpire: S V Ramani. Match Referee: B Raghunath.