Hanuma Vihari named Rest of India squad for Irani Cup, Sai Sudharsan, Mayank Agarwal in

Hanuma Vihari has been named captain of Rest of India for the Irani Cup against Ranji champions Saurashtra beginning October 1 in Rajkot.

Abhimanyu Easwaran, who made 798 runs in the Ranji season, misses out as he’s recovering from typhoid. The other surprise miss is Kerala allrounder Jalaj Saxena, who topped the wickets chart with 50 scalps.

With several India A players away with the national team at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, the selectors have rewarded young batters Yash Dhull and Rohan Kunnummal with berths purely on potential, despite them having endured poor Ranji seasons.

Dhull managed just 270 runs in 10 innings at the 2022-23 Ranji Trophy while Kunnummal managed 203 runs in nine innings. Vihari himself had a patchy season, scoring 490 runs in 14 innings for Andhra, but the captaincy is possibly a further sign of him still being in the mix as far as back-ups go for the national team.

Mumbai’s Sarfaraz Khan, who scored 0, 6, 0 and 48 at the season-opening Duleep Trophy, will also potentially have an opportunity to make amends. He’s expected to occupy one of the middle-order berths.

Where Sarfaraz bats in the XI could be a sign of the kind of role the senior selectors see him playing in the near future. At Mumbai, he’s been prolific at No. 5, where he’s had tremendous success over the past three seasons. Sai Sudharsan, meanwhile, is set to link up with the squad straight off a maiden county stint with Surrey.

ROI’s bowling department will be spearheaded by Bengal’s Akash Deep and Navdeep Saini, while Karnataka’s Vidwath Kaverappa, who had an impressive Duleep Trophy to back up his 30 wickets in the Ranji season, is expected to line up as the third pacer. Uttar Pradesh’s Saurabh Kumar and Shams Mulani, the second-highest wicket-taker at Ranji Trophy 2022-23 (46 scalps), are the two frontline spinners, with Delhi’s Pulkit Narang also making the cut. Yash Dayal brings in the left-arm pace variety.

Hosts Saurashtra too have named a strong squad boasting of all their regulars. Cheteshwar Pujara and Jaydev Unadkat, the captain, are coming off a regular diet of red-ball cricket at the county championship in England. At 37, Sheldon Jackson continues to be a pillar in the middle order alongside Pujara, Arpit Vasavada, the previous Ranji season’s second-highest run-getter.

Saurashtra earned the right to play this game after beating Bengal to clinch their second Ranji Trophy crown in Kolkata earlier this year.

Rest of India: Hanuma Vihari (captain), K S Bharat, Mayank Agarwal, Yash Dhull, Shams Mulani, Sai Sudarshan, Sarfaraz Khan, Pulkit Narang, Saurabh Kumar, Yash Dayal, Navdeep Saini, Vidwath Kaverappa, Akash Deep, Rohan Kunnummal, Dhruv Jurel.

Saurashtra: Jaydev Unadkat (captain), Cheteshwar Pujara, Sheldon Jackson, Arpit Vasavada, Harvik Desai, Dharmendrasinh Jadeja, Prerak Mankad, Chirag Jani, Jay Gohil, Parth Bhut, Vishvarajsinh Jadeja, Samarth Vyas, Yuvrajsinh Dodiya, Kushang Patel, Snell Patel, Devang Karamta.

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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