Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul under spotlight: Domestic battles, testing time

Hindustan Times

Hindustan Times

Author 2019-09-25 11:05:17

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The domestic cricket season got underway last month with the Duleep Trophy, which ended without anyone noticing it due to the absence of international stars. The inter-state one-day competition for the Vijay Hazare Trophy that began on Tuesday thus becomes the season’s first genuinely major tournament. National chief selector MSK Prasad told HT that the tournament’s competitiveness, especially this season, makes it important for his panel.

Here’s a look at what to look forward to in the tournament:

It’s raining

The monsoon, still active this year and heavy in certain parts of the country, ensured six of the 12 matches on the first day of the competition were washed out, at Alur and Vadodara. Players like Andhra’s Hanuma Vihari, Delhi’s Rishabh Pant and Vidarbha’s Umesh Yadav (replacement for injured Jasprit Bumrah), who were to play the first 2-3 games before joining the India squad for the South Africa Tests starting on October 2, stay put in their dressing rooms while Wriddhiman Saha, who too is in the Test squad, made 26 in Bengal’s loss to Gujarat.

ALSO READ: Bumrah ruled out, Umesh named as replacement in India’s Test squad

Bigger and bigger

The Indian domestic calendar keeps getting bigger and bigger. The new constitution’s requirement of having cricket across the country and giving opportunities to all states led to a surge in matches last year, even if many didn’t last the distance. After the inclusion of teams from the Northeast and Puducherry and Uttarakhand last year took the number of teams to 37, Chandigarh’s entry this year adds to it. There are most likely going to be records, bloated bowling figures and aggregates like last year.

Pant seeks runs

Pant, who has been threatened with a rap on the knuckles by chief coach Ravi Shastri, is due to play the first few games before joining the Test squad. He would hope to get some runs and confidence after a few wasted starts in recent limited-overs internationals. Picked in the Test squad more for his batting than wicket-keeping skills, Pant has done well with the bat in Tests.

But with Saha, definitely a better and more experienced gloveman, also in the squad, the Delhi youngster would be keen to hit the ground running. Andhra’s KS Bharat, now a regular India A wicketkeeper, and Jharkhand’s Ishan Kishan too would hope to come into reckoning. More importantly, Pant has Shreyas Iyer, who impressed at No. 5 in the ODI leg in the West Indies, breathing down his neck for the No. 4 slot in limited-overs. Iyer is captaining Mumbai.

3D after-effects

Ambati Rayudu returns to cricket after quitting abruptly in July. He was apparently hurt after being ignored for the World Cup, after being tried at No. 4 to mixed results in the lead-up to the tournament. His cheeky tweet, taking a jibe at his ‘3-dimensional’ replacement Vijay Shankar, became a rage on the social media. Worse, he was asked to play a certain level of local cricket to be eligible for selection to the state team. It was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back for a man who, until a few months earlier, was occupying a pivotal batting slot in the India ODI team.

Things calmed down and Rayudu reversed his decision, returning to the Hyderabad team as skipper. Whether a good performance will see him make the India squad again remains to be seen. For now, chief selector Prasad doesn’t want to commit.

Back to square one

The only India player to return unhappy from the recent tour of the West Indies, where India ground the hosts to dust, was probably KL Rahul. His poor returns from the Tests due to an uncertain approach as opener cost him his place in the squad for the South Africa Tests. He goes back to domestic circuit, where he’ll find fellow internationals from Karnataka like Karun Nair and Manish Pandey who couldn’t stay on in the India team and were relegated. Rahul’s replacement in the India squad, Shubman Gill, though will be buoyant and look for confidence-building runs for Punjab in the one-dayers ahead of the Test series starting in Visakhapatnam.

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