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Eager for a comeback? Prove yourself at the Challenger Trophy
by Partab Ramchand
Oct 23, 2007
The debate whether The Big Three of Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid should continue to be part of the one day squad seems to be a never ending one but there can be no doubt that they cannot be around for too long. In this regard the four matches in the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy to be played at Ahmedabad from October 25 to 28 should generate more than usual interest. Candidates who could be playing for India in the near and not so near future could be unearthed particularly with all the three seniors being rested. Also being rested in view of the heavy schedule of matches later in the season are Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Yuvraj Singh, Murali Kartik, Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan.

The Challenger Trophy named after the former BCCI president is the premier one day competition in the country. The Deodhar Trophy and Wills Trophy were the competitions that were launched belatedly in the 70s when it was clear even to short sighted Indian administrators that one day cricket had come to stay. In 1994-95 the Challenger Trophy made its appearance and the format of having three teams that comprised the best 36 players in the country has gone down well with the cricketers, media and the fans. The standard of play predictably has been quite high and invariably the jostling for a place in the national squad was the incentive for the participants to come up with performances matching or even enhancing their potential. Also with the BCCI carefully scheduling the tournament in between international engagements this has been the one domestic competition in which even the superstars have taken part enhancing its prestige and importance.

Virender Sehwag on a comeback trail as far as ODI’s are concerned is leading the India Blue team while Mohammad Kaif is the captain of India Red. Wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel will captain India Green. The timing of the tournament is also significant what with the Pakistan tour of India scheduled for next month and this of course will be followed by India’s tour of Australia.

So the participants will not be short of motivation and there are a number of players who are eager to make a comeback or in serious contention for a place in the national squad in the future. The three captains themselves were all donning the India cap not too long ago. There could still be room for Sehwag at the top and for Kaif in the middle order. As for Patel he wants to make it clear that the presence of Dinesh Kartik and Dhoni has not discouraged him. He seems determined not be shunted out of recognition totally if his 179 for Rest of India in the Irani Trophy recently is any indication.

The tournament will also provide opportunities for other contenders to impress the selectors. The India Red team besides Kaif has the likes of Gautam Gambhir, S Badrinath, Ishant Sharma, Ravneet Ricky and the young Hyderabad left arm spinner Pragyan Ojha who is being spoken of highly. Sehwag leads a team that includes Dinesh Karthik, Suresh Raina, Joginder Sharma, Ramesh Powar, Amit Mishra and Ranadeb Bose. The India Green team besides Parthiv Patel has the likes of Rohit Sharma, Piyush Chawla, Manoj Tiwari, Cheteshwar Pujara, Yusuf Pathan and Munaf Patel.

So the stakes are high for the participants some of whom have got in because the established stars are not playing. The team to play Pakistan in the five match ODI series is to be picked during the tournament and the players should make the most of the opportunities that come their way. The three teams play each other once and then the top two will contest the final and the selectors would do well to keep an eagle eye on any cricketer who they can identify as a future India player. After all this is not just another domestic tournament.

More Views by Partab Ramchand
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