Cream of Indian cricket will be on display

Published: Sunday, February 6, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Mumbai:After a lengthy gap, the cream of Indian cricket, with the notable exception of Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh, would be seen in action in the domestic game when they turn out in the three-team N K P Salve Challenger Trophy which unfolds here tomorrow.

Tendulkar is resting his troublesome elbow, while Harbhajan is Australia-bound to start the process of correcting his delivery style that has come under the scrutiny of the game's world governing council, ICC, and would miss the event at the Wankhede Stadium.

The three squads in the fray in the day-night tournament - India Seniors, India 'A' and India 'B' - have been entrusted to national captain Sourav Ganguly, his deputy Rahul Dravid and Delhi swashbuckler Virender Sehwag.

It's going to be a very interesting and important tournament considering most of the big guns will be in action and with the upcoming tension-packed Pakistan series looming large.

The Challenger series offers the perfect setting for the established ones who skipped the just-concluded Deodhar Trophy to find their rhythm as also the others to make a mark.

The three teams sport a host of new faces who have been rewarded with berths for performance in Ranji Trophy and other domestic events in the earlier part of the season.

Under the scanner would be Suresh Raina, Yalaka Venugopal Rao, Neeraj Patel, Gagandeep Singh, Rajesh Pawar, Shikhar Dhawan (India Seniors), Satyajit Parab, Dheeraj Jadhav, R P Singh, Yousuf Pathan, Robin Uthappa (India 'A'), Joginder Sharma, Shiv Shanker Paul and Ambati Rayudu (India 'B').

The tournament is also the first big chance for discarded stumper Parthiv Patel to show improvement in his work behind the stumps to the national selectors, who will be watching the performance of all players.

Gujarat's Patel has been included in India 'B' while the men who have replaced him in the one-day and Test squads recently - Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik - would be seen in action for India Seniors and India 'A' respectively.

This side show of one-upmanship is expected to be as riveting as the main contest.

Tamil Nadu and India pacer Lakshmipathy Balaji has been out of action since September last year because of an abdomen injury and this is his first chance to show his recovery.

Another India speedster, Irfan Pathan, too has not played any cricket since being sidelined with an injury during the second Test against Bangladesh.

The series provides the left-arm paceman the ideal chance to link up with his comrade-in-arms on the last Pakistan tour, Balaji, for India 'A'.

The likes of Ganguly, Dravid, Sehwag, V V S Laxman, Anil Kumble, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra and Yuvraj Singh would all be as eager as others to slip back into the groove.

For the fans around the country there's going to be disappointment with the tournament not scheduled to be telecast 'live'. No tie-up has taken place between the Cricket Board and any TV channel to beam action at the middle.

Read more about: kolkata, news, thatscricketcom, february 6
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