India have played as many as 20 limited-over matches – with the deciding T20I between India and Australia being washed out – since they last played a Test just over three months ago.
With India deploying the horses for courses approach, a lot of players were left out or were ‘rotated’ in the limited-overs format. As many as 10 players who weren’t a part of the squad that faced New Zealand will be a part of the 15-man squad that was named for the first two Tests against Sri Lanka starting 16 November.
Away from the national duty, the players sweated it out in country’s top flight first class competition–Ranji Trophy. Here, we look at how they fared in the domestic arena:
Murali Vijay (Tamil Nadu)
The stylish India opener, who regularly features only in the whites for India, pulled out at the last-minute when India toured Sri Lanka in July-August, due to wrist injury. Having played his last Test in March against Australia, the Tamil Nadu batsman is likely to face stiff competition from Shikhar Dhawan, who has been in terrific form. The right-handed opener has had a mixed time for Tamil Nadu with the scores of 4, 55, 11 and 140 in the three Ranji games he has been involved in. Vijay, would be raring to make an International comeback and get into the groove early against the Lankans.
KL Rahul (Karnataka)
KL Rahul is another opener who might be fighting for a place in the starting eleven with Vijay back. After a decent Test series in Sri Lanka, where he averaged 71, the Karnataka batsman took part in two Ranji games and was on his way to a century against Delhi in the last match when he was run out at 92. He was inconsistent with scores of 4, 23, 9 and 92. Rahul shares an all-time Test record of having seven consecutive half-centuries with the likes of Sir Everton Weekes, Andy Flower, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Rogers.
Ajinkya Rahane (Mumbai)
Despite scoring four consecutive half-centuries against Australia, Rahane, lost his place in the limited-overs series against New Zealand. The Mumbai batsman might not have sealed his place in the limited-overs format but he remains the mainstay in Tests. Rahane had a couple of ordinary outings in the two Ranji Trophy ties he played in. He scored 49 in the first innings against Odisha and was dismissed for a duck in the second innings. A duck followed in the first innings of Mumbai’s landmark 500th Ranji Trophy match, against Baroda. He however showed some resilience with a 133-ball 45 in the second innings. In both the matches, Rahane batted at number three. Perhaps, a struggling Mumbai expected more from their ace batsman.
Cheteshwar Pujara (Saurashtra)
After having returned from an ordinary country stint for Nottinghamshire, Cheteshwar Pujara was back to the grind of Ranji Trophy and back amongst the runs as well. The Rajkot batsman scored 437 runs in 5 innings at 87.40 in the current season. Pujara failed to convert his starts in the first two games but he made up for it against Jharkhand in the first innings smashing a jaw-dropping 12th first-class double ton, breaking Vijay Merchant’s record that stood for almost 70 years. The India number three followed it up with another masterly 182 against defending Ranji champions Gujarat to propel his team to the top of the table in the group. Pujara has been India’s most consistent Test batsmen in 2017 with 851 runs to his name including three tons at 70.91. If he continues his good run against Sri Lanka he might well overtake Dean Elgar (1097 runs) for most Test runs in 2017.
Ravichandran Ashwin (Tamil Nadu)
India’s premier right-arm off spinner will be itching to return to International cricket. With the selectors preferring to rest the 31-year old from limited-overs action, Ashwin, like Pujara, spent some time in England with Worcestershire. Ashwin enjoyed a fruitful outing with The Pears scalping 20 wickets, including two 5-wicket hauls, in four ties. His stint with the bat was not bad either notching 214 runs in six attempts at 42.80. After steering Worcestershire to county championship division two triumph, Ashwin returned to his state team Tamil Nadu in Ranji Trophy. Ashwin might not have hit his straps in the domestic competition, plucking 11 wickets which came at a cost of 439 runs in six innings and at a dismal strike rate of 77.45. Ashwin went wicketless in two innings. His performance with the bat was worse with the scores of 9, 15, 1* and 13. But come international cricket count the current world number 4 bowler at your own peril.
Wriddhiman Saha (Bengal)
The Indian wicket keeper too had a decent warm up before the start of three-match Test series with 230 runs in seven innings for Bengal. Saha missed out on a century in his last game against Vidarbha, scoring 97. The 33-year-old didn’t get too much time in the middle in the series in Sri Lanka with the top-order doing the bulk of the scoring. As far as Saha’s role behind the stumps is concerned he was very clinical pouching 20 catches in eight innings, the most so far this season.
Ravindra Jadeja (Saurashtra)
The Saurashtra all-rounder had a terrific start to this year’s Ranji Trophy with bat and ball. He scored his fifth 200+ score in the competition. The southpaw backed his batting performance with seven wickets in the match against Jammu and Kashmir, helping Saurashtra complete an outright win and claiming a bonus point. The world number two bowler and all-rounder in Test cricket scored a total of 258 runs in four innings at an average of 86 complimenting the 10 wickets he scalped at for 31.1 runs apiece in three Ranji matches.
Ishant Sharma (Delhi)
After teammate Gautam Gambhir stepped down from captaincy, Ishant Sharma led the Delhi side in Ranji Trophy. Skipper Sharma started off in the best possible way picking a fifer against Assam in the first innings. The tall-bowler took 15 wickets in six innings at an impeccable average of 13.93 making his case for a spot in the playing XI unignorable. Sharma hasn’t featured in Tests for India since the Ranchi match against Australia in March 2017.
Mohammad Shami (Bengal)
The right-arm quick was the leading wicket taker in Sri Lanka amongst pacers and he continued the good form for Bengal in the Ranji Trophy. Shami bagged couple of five-wicket hauls this season picking 18 wickets at an impressive average of 23.94.
Umesh Yadav (Vidarbha)
Playing for Vidarbha, Umesh Yadav, sent down 67 overs in four innings. Yadav scalped nine wickets at a respectable average of 27.75 and will vie for a spot in the playing XI with Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma.