The Z.R. Irani Cup must bring back really happy memories for one Vidarbha batsman — Wasim Jaffer. The veteran Mumbai opener having taken a gamble to shift base to Nagpur from Mumbai last season didn’t have the most profitable season in Ranji Trophy.However, all of that changed come the Irani Cup last year once Vidharbha were crowned Ranji champions for the first time in 2018. Jaffer scored a colossal 286 as the champions piled on 800/7 declared against Rest of India. There was only going to be one winner of the Irani Cup once the massive total was on board.
Jaffer, who will turn 41 in four days’ time, carried on that form into Ranji Trophy this season and piled up over 1,000 runs as Vidarbha retained their Ranji Trophy crown with a win over Saurashtra in final last week.
Vidarbha were the first team to snap Rest of India’s successive Irani Cup titles last year and will look to repeat the same dose when the two sides face off at Jamtha in Nagpur from Tuesday (February 12).
The Rest of India squad will be led Ajinkya Rahane and apart from the skipper also includes the likes of opener Mayank Agarwal and all-rounder Hanuma Vihari — both of whom had fine outings in the Test series down under.
The side also features the likes of Mumbai skipper Shreyas Iyer, Jharkhand wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan and Punjab opener Anmolpreet Singh — all of whom have become regulars in Rahul Dravid’s India ‘A’ outfit.
The batting might of Rest of India squad would not worry Vidarbha, who are already enjoying the high of a second-successive Ranji title. Apart from Jaffer, skipper Faiz Fazal had an impressive season with 752 runs while young Akshay Wadkar notched up 725 runs at an average of over 60 with three centuries.
It’s the Vidarbha bowling attack that should concern Rest of India. Umesh Yadav was sensational in the Ranji quarterfinals and semifinals, picking up 21 wickets in these two games. Although he had a modest outing in the final, Yadav will always be a threat with his express pace.
On a Jamtha track, which should be slow and low towards the end of a long season, Vidarbha spinner Aditya Sarwate, Akshay Wakhare and Akshay Karnewar should be more than a handful. Off-spinner Wakhare has had an eventful few days as he got married a couple of days back adding to the joy of winning the Ranji title.
Rest of India have enough firepower when it comes to the slow bowlers, led by Saurashtra left-arm spinner Dharmendrasinh Jadeja who picked up over 50 wickets in Ranji Trophy this year. Jadeja will have Karnataka’s off-spinning all-rounder Krishnappa Gowtham for company as well as an in-form pace attack featuring Karnataka’s Ronit More, Rahul Chahar of Rajasthan and Kerala’s Sandeep Warrier.
On a familiar turf of Jamtha, Vidarbha will be looking to become the first team to defend their Irani Cup title since Karnataka (2013-14 and 2014-15) managed five seasons back.
First Published: February 11, 2019, 2:44 PM IST