Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane will be playing the league stage of the Ranji Trophy 2022, starting February 16, after being named in the squad for their respective first-class teams.
Pujara will be featuring for Saurashtra, while Rahane will be seen grinding it out for Mumbai as the duo strive to revive their fortunes in red-ball cricket after a prolonged dip in returns playing for the country.
Since the start of 2020, Pujara is averaging 26.99 over 38 innings at the Test level, whereas Rahane is averaging 24.08 from his 35 innings for India. In the latter’s case, some of his average is bolstered by a match-winning hundred in the Boxing Day Test against Australia, a point from where his average dips further to 20.25 over 15 Tests.
With India’s 2-1 loss in South Africa likely proving the end of the elongated rope given by the selectors and the management to the duo, indications are that they may not be picked for the home series against Sri Lanka coming up. Thus, the Ranji Trophy provides both Pujara and Rahane a final opportunity to keep themselves in consideration.
Interestingly, during the league stage for the country’s premier domestic first-class competition, the two cricketers will be up against each other as Saurashtra and Mumbai find themselves locked in for a Group D tussle in Ahmedabad. The other two teams part of Group D in a rejigged event amid the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic are Goa and Odisha.
In Saurashtra’s camp, Pujara will be playing under experienced seamer Jaydev Unadkat, while Rahane will have to take the field under opening batter Prithvi Shaw’s captaincy with Mumbai.
In another major Ranji Trophy news, premier allrounder Hardik Pandya will not be playing for Baroda in the first-class competition. The 28-year-old is set to continue his recovery from a back problem that has held him back for a long time now and dented his chances of bowling full tilt in international cricket.
Pandya’s recovery target is this year’s edition of the Indian Premer League, where he will be captaining Ahmedabad, and he is unlikely to play the home series against Sri Lanka either.