Newly crowned Ranji Trophy champions Mumbai have added opener Jay Bista to their victorious squad for the five-day Irani Cup game against the Rest of India, commencing at the Brabourne Stadium here on March 6.
Bista, who lost his place after a twin failure against Jharkhand in the Ranji quarter final at Mysuru, was made the 16th member of the squad following his double century for the victorious Mumbai under 23 team in the C K Nayudu final against Madhya Pradesh at Indore.
Welcoming his addition to the squad, Mumbai Ranji coach Chandrakant Pandit told reporters, "He deserved to get back into the team. He scored a century (in the U 23 tournament) immediately after being left out of the squad and scored a double century in the final."
Also in the squad is pace bowler Dhawal Kulkarni, who got married here yesterday and has decided to play in the game.
Mumbai, who grabbed their 41st Ranji title by defeating Saurashtra in the summit clash last week in Pune, have won the Irani crown for the 15th and last time in 1997-98, a point that was mentioned by Pandit.
"Irani Trophy has always been taken seriously. Fifteen times Mumbai have won the title but had not been able to achieve that from 1997-98. That's what we talked about this morning.
"The selectors are going to watch. Whatever they had done throughout the season, this is another opportunity. Anyone doing well here will be in the reckoning or will be playing for India," said Pandit.
Pandit, a former India stumper, also had a word of praise for the fast improving captain Aditya Tare and said his work behind the stumps has seen an upward graph from the beginning of the season.
"He has done well, definitely. He has been handling three jobs - behind the stumps, captaincy and batting, so naturally he has done a lot for the team. He has been performing well as well, especially behind the stumps he has done the job. Naturally the the national selectors will be noticing that.
"From what I have seen in the first match and till the last game - the Ranji final - he has shown a lot of improvement in the technical aspects of wicket keeping as well. It is not an easy job.
"Being a (former) wicket-keeper, I know standing behind the stumps for 150 overs or so in every match and then coming back to bat, and you have lot of thoughts in your mind in leading the team, takes a lot (of toll) as well," he said.
This Ranji season Tare ended up with a new championship record of 48 victims behind the stumps, the break-up being 45 catches and three stumpings.
Though Mumbai have not won the Irani title for close to two decades, Pandit said it's not because of lack of effort. "Mumbai history says that they always believe in winning the Irani Cup. There are also international players playing (in ROI). Traditionally the stalwarts have been playing. I
remember that in 1985 when I played, Kapil Dev was bowling (for the Rest), so the topmost cricketer was playing in the tournament, but nowadays it's different," he said.
He was confident his team members will handle the pressure well. "Everybody is aware about what they have been doing throughout the season. It's time for them to prove it again," he said.
Irani Cup squads:
Mumbai: Aditya Tare (Capt.), Abhishek Nayar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shreyas Iyer, Suryakumar Yadav, Akhil Herwadkar, Siddhesh Lad, Sufiyan Shaikh, Nikhil Patil (Jr.), Iqbal Abdullah, Shardul Thakur, Balwinder Singh Sandhu (Jr.), Badre Alam, Bhavin Thakkar, Vishal Dabholkar, Jay Bista.
Rest of India: K S Bharat, Faiz Fazal, Karun Nair, Sheldon Jackson, Naman Ojha (Capt.), Stuart Binny, Shahbaz Nadeem, Jayant Yadav, Nathu Singh, Jaydev Unadkat, Barinder Sran, Krishna Das, Sudeep Chatterjee, Ian Dev Singh, Akshay Wakhare.