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Harbhajan Singh to lead Rest of India in Irani Cup, Gambhir included

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh will lead the Rest of India (RoI) side against Ranji Trophy champions Karnataka in the Irani Cup. The 15-man squad includes Gautam Gambhir, Amit Mishra, Dinesh Karthik, Varun Aaron and Parvez Rasool.

New Delhi: Senior off-spinner Harbhajan Singh will get a shot at redemption while leading a 15-member Rest of India squad that also includes seasoned opener Gautam Gambhir as they take on Ranji Trophy champions Karnataka in the Irani Cup match in Bangalore from February 9.

However, the two other out-of-form seniors -- Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag -- were once again ignored in the team that has all the premier performers of the recently concluded Ranji Trophy.

Harbhajan had led the team last year too with RoI winning the Irani Cup for the eighth consecutive time. The tie is a good platform where domestic players and those who have represented India can make an impression on the national selectors.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh will lead the Rest of India (RoI) side that includes veteran Gautam Gambhir against Ranji Trophy champions Karnataka in the Irani CupHarbhajan Singh (right) will lead the Rest of India side that includes veteran Gautam Gambhir against Ranji Trophy champions Karnataka in the Irani Cup. File Pic/AFP

Harbhajan's inclusion as the captain means that he is still in selectors' radar for the longer version. Ditto for Gambhir, who had scored close to 600 runs this season and is likely to open with Punjab's Jiwanjot Singh.

The squad has Ranji Trophy's top-scorer Kedar Jadhav (1223 runs) along with talented youngsters like Jiwanjot, Tamil Nadu's Baba Aparajith, Maharashtra's Ankit Bawne and Punjab's Mandeep Singh, who have scored heavily in this year's national domestic tourney.

Odisha's Natraj Behera, who had a prolific season despite his state not qualifying for the knock-outs, was included in the side.

The spin department will be taken care of by Harbhajan and leggie Amit Mishra while Jammu and Kashmir captain Parveez Rasool will be the third spinner.

The only questionable non-inclusion was Himachal Pradesh seamer Rishi Dhawan, who ended as the highest wicket-taker with 49 scalps.

However, the selectors have finally found a place for veteran Rajasthan seamer Pankaj Singh, who has been performing in the domestic circuit year after year. This year also, he has taken 39 wickets.

Varun Aaron is also there in the squad and the selectors would be interested in checking out whether he lasts in a rigorous five-day game where one needs to bowl a long second and even a third spell.

Bengal's Ashok Dinda and Railways' Anureet Singh have also made it to the squad on the back of some match-winning performances for their respective teams.

Squad Rest of India: Harbhajan Singh (Captain), Jiwanjot Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Baba Aparajith, Kedar Jadhav, Ankit Bawne, Dinesh Kartik, Amit Mishra, Pankaj Singh, Ashoke Dinda, Varun Aaron, Parveez Rasool, Anureet Singh, Natraj Behera, Mandeep Singh.

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