Dhull, Sarfaraz, Mayank included in Rest of India squad for Irani Cup

After a century on debut in both the Ranji Trophy and Duleep Trophy, Delhi batter Yash Dhull will have an opportunity to enhance his red-ball credentials at the Irani Cup. He has been selected as part of a strong 15-member Rest of India squad, led by Hanuma Vihari, for one-off fixture against Saurashtra in Rajkot from October 1-5.

Dhull, India’s 2022 Under-19 World Cup winning captain, has already racked up 770 runs in nine first-class innings, with four centuries, including a best of 200 not out. He will pitch for a berth in a strong middle order, consisting of Vihari, the in-form Sarfaraz Khan and KS Bharat, the first-choice wicketkeeper.

Jaiswal will be heading into the game fresh off a career-best 265 for West Zone in the Duleep Trophy final against South Zone last week. Like Dhull, Jaiswal has also had a roaring start to his first-class career. In fact he became the joint-fastest Indian to 1000 runs in the format, getting there in only 13 innings at an average of 84.58, with five hundreds and a half-century.

Easwaran and Panchal, meanwhile, were among the runs for India A during their 1-0 home series win over New Zealand A. Both batters have been India A regulars for the past three years and have been on the fringes of the national team.

Easwaran, who captains Bengal in first-class cricket, was part of the Test squad in England last year as a reserve opener, alongside Agarwal, who will be itching to hit top form after slipping under the radar following a string of low scores leading to his omission from the fifth Test against England earlier this year. He showed a semblance of good form in the Duleep Trophy, with scores of 49 and 64 in the semi-final against North Zone.

The pace attack, meanwhile, is raw. All of five first-class matches old, tearaway quick Umran Malik has continued to receive the backing of the selectors despite an underwhelming start to his red-ball career; he’s picked up all of eight wickets so far. He will be part of a four-man pace attack, alongside Mukesh Kumar, Kuldeep Sen and Arzan Nagwaswalla. Jayant Yadav and Saurabh Kumar are the two frontline spinners.

Among the bowlers, Mukesh, Bengal’s pace spearhead, has been the most impressive in recent times. Last month, he picked up his fourth first-class five-for against New Zealand A in Bengaluru. Nagwaswalla, meanwhile, has been a regular feature in the Indian team as a net bowler over the past two seasons.

The match, which is also likely to feature Saurashtra and India No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, is belatedly being held after being postponed due to Covid-19. Played between the Ranji champions and Rest of India, the match was to be a follow-up to Saurashtra’s maiden Ranji Trophy win in March 2020 but was postponed indefinitely owing to a national lockdown in the week following their win.

The Rest of India squad will be coached by Sitanshu Kotak, the former Saurashtra captain, who is currently part of VVS Laxman’s larger coaching group at the National Cricket Academy. Kotak, who was with the senior Indian team as assistant coach on their tour of Ireland earlier this summer, has just finished a stint with India A, who he coached to a 3-0 sweep in the white-ball leg of the New Zealand series at home.

Rest of India squad: Abhimanyu Easwaran, Priyank Panchal, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari (captain), Sarfaraz Khabn, Yashaswi Jaiswal, Yash Dhull, KS Bharat, Upendra Yadav (wicketkeepers), Kuldeep Sen, Umran Malik, Mukesh Kumar, Arzan Nagwaswalla, Jayant Yadav, Saurabh Kumar

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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