Bangalore, Sept 20: The cream of Indian cricket and the rest of the world are focused on the ICC World Twenty20 2012 in Sri Lanka. However, for 30 cricketers who have assembled here, their target is the Irani Cup, which opens Indian domestic season 2012-13.
As always in every season opener, Rest of India and Ranji Trophy champions, this time Rajasthan, will battle for Irani Cup honours from September 21 to 25 at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Originally scheduled to be held in Jaipur, this tie was moved to Bangalore as heavy rain hampered pitch preparations at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium.
Bangalore, which produced an excellent Test match strip for India and New Zealand game, is ready to give another sporting wicket.
"It will be a sporting wicket which will assist both batsmen and bowlers. From second onwards, it might assist spinners," said a Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA) official who was in-charge of pitch preparations.
Rest of India captain Cheteshwar Pujara, who played here in the Test, said: "In initial couple of days our fast bowlers may get help from the wicket as we had seen in the Test match against New Zealand. It may later turn a bit. We would like to use it our advantage."
Rajasthan skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar said he would go in with three pacemen. "I think the wicket looks greenish and would help seamers. But it is a fair wicket,"he said.
Bangalore is hosting a Irani Cup match after 13 years. The last Irani Cup (Irani Trophy then) tie here was held in 1999/00 season. That match saw Karnataka, led by Anil Kumble, facing Rest of India. Overall this is seventh match here.
Rest of India have won four of the six matches played, losing only to Karnataka on two occasions - 1996/97 (outright) and 1998/99 (on first innings lead).
Rest of India has many India hopefuls and also those who are aiming to get back to the national side.
India Under-19 World Cup star, Harmeet Singh too has been rewarded with a place. The left-arm spinner has come in for high praise and is likely to get a chance tomorrow.
Test players, Pragyan Ojha and Umesh Yadav who played in India-New Zealand series are also in the squad.
The tall Ishant Sharma will get an opportunity to prove his fitness. Others in the squad are Yusuf Pathan, Subramaniam Badrniath, Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane among others.
Another new face in the team is home boy Stuart Binny. The right-hand all-rounder might find it tough to break into the playing XI with so many impressive players in the line-up. However, he has an outside chance to feature on his home ground.
Abhimanyu Mithun is another local lad who is in Rest of India squad. Having played for India in Tests and One Day Internationals, he will be hoping to have a better season this year and win back his India cap.
Rajasthan are without some of their key players. Aakash Chopra has moved from the Ranji Trophy champions to Himachal Pradesh. Ashok Menaria and Rituraj Singh are with the India A squad in New Zealand.
Rajasthan might find it tough to put it across Rest of India in this five-day tie. But Kanitkar wants to end Rest of India's domination in Irani Cup. He said: "Definitely we want to reverse the trend and beat ROI in Irani Cup. Till couple of seasons back, Rajasthan had never won Ranji in 76 years, but we won. Hopefully we will do the same against Rest of India in Irani match here."
Overall, this is a chance for youngsters to push for India selection.
Rest of India: Cheteshwar Pujara (captain), Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Subramaniam Badrinath, Dinesh Karthik, Wriddhiman Saha, Yusuf Pathan, Pragyan Ojha, Parvinder Awana, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Shikhar Dhawan, Stuart Binny, Abhimanyu Mithun, Harmeet Singh. Coach/Manager: Surendra Bhave.
Rajasthan: Hrishikesh Kanitkar (captain), Dishant Yagnik, Aniket Choudhary, Ankit Lamba, Vineet Saxena, Sumeet Mathur, Gajendra Singh, Madhur Khatri, Deepak Chahar, Raman Chahar, Robin Bisht, Arijit Gupta, Vaibhav Deshpande, Puneet Yadav, Rashmi Ranjan Parida. Coach: Chandrakant Pandit. Bowling Coach: Meyrick Pringle.
Umpires: S Ravi and Sudhir Asnani
Third umpire: Vineet Kulkarni
Match Referee: Manu Nayar
Match starts at 9.30 AM