Challenger Trophy, Indian domestic season, 2007-08 October 22, 2007

Know your challengers - India Blue

Cricinfo staff

With the major Indian stars not playing, the Challenger Trophy this season features many unfamiliar faces. Cricinfo, in a three-part series, profiles the lesser-known players whose selection may come in as a surprise at first glance. India Blue, featured in this part, will be led by Virender Sehwag, who after an impressive showing in the ICC World Twenty20, would be looking for an ODI recall. Ranadeb Bose, Joginder Sharma, Ramesh Powar, Dinesh Karthik and Suresh Raina are some of the better-known players in the side. Now for the relative unknowns:

Saurabh Bandekar © Cricinfo Ltd

Saurabh Bandekar

Bandekar, a handy medium-pace bowler and batsman for Goa, has played 13 matches for India Under-19, including the 2006 World Cup in Sri Lanka. This speaks a lot for a player coming from Goa, hardly a feeder of talent for the national side. He started off as an opener for Goa U-14s, but has since slipped down the batting order. During his transition through the age groups to the senior Goa side, Bandekar improved on his bowling and now opens the bowling for his state. During the U-19 World Cup, his spell of 3 for 36 helped knock England out of the tournament.

Last season, List A
Runs: 51, Ave: 17
Wickets: 6, Ave: 35.83

Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 56, S/R: 71.79

Swapnil Asnodkar

Battling amid the ruins that Goa normally find themselves in, the 23-year-old Asnodkar, Goa's No. 3, has always been up against the odds. While analysing his stats - 1850 first-class runs at 37 - one must keep in mind the burden he has needed to shoulder in his six first-class seasons. He cracked 104 and 83 not out in last season's Ranji one-day tournament, but it was his fiery run-a-ball 107, while opening for South Zone against East in the Deodhar Trophy, that made people take notice.

Last season, List A
Runs: 470, Ave: 58.75

Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 69, S/R: 116.94

Ajinkya Rahane

Rahane, an aggressive opener, is yet to play a Ranji Trophy match for Mumbai, but has already struck two centuries in his first two first-class games - against Karachi Urban in the Mohammad Nissar Trophy and against Rest of India in the Irani Trophy. In 2007, he had an impressive Under-19 tour to New Zealand, where he scored 358 at 71.6 in Tests and 144 at 48 in ODIs. He is rated highly in the Mumbai circles, and looks like one for the future for the state, if not higher.

Last season, List A
Runs: 162, Ave: 54

Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 120, S/R: 93.02

Arjun Yadav

Yadav first came across as a promising batsman coming through the age groups, but eight years since his first-class debut, the promise is yet to transform. Strong performances in age-group cricket had earned him a place in the Indian Under-19 team for the World Cup in 1999-2000, but he did not play a single match in India's victory there. Since then he has been a fairly regular fixture in the Hyderabad team, and has been picked for zonal and India A squads. Over seven seasons of first-class cricket, he has managed an average of 28.51.

Last season, List A
Runs: 210, Ave: 26.25

Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 17, S/R: 77.27

Rakesh Dhurv

Dhurv has been one of the most consistent performers for Saurashtra over the years, and played a key role in his teams' capturing of the Ranji Plate title two years ago. A steady left-arm spinner to begin with, Dhurv has worked hard on his batting and has become a useful No. 6. On a few occasions, he has narrowly missed making it to the West Zone side for the Duleep Trophy.

Last season, List A
Wickets: 4, Ave: 35

Last season, Twenty20