NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, 2007-08 October 23, 2007

Know your challengers - India Green

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 Green, featured in this part, will be led by Parthiv Patel. Munaf Patel, Gagandeep Singh, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Rohit Sharma and Manoj Tiwary have been around for a while. Now for the relative unknowns:



Cheteshwar Pujara's grandfather, father and uncle represented their states at cricket. It was natural Cheteshwar played cricket too © ICC

Cheteshwar Pujara

Pujara has been talked about as special ever since he scored an unbeaten 306 against Baroda Under-14 a week shy of his 14th birthday. A right-hand opener for Saurashtra with all the right signs - orthodox technique, tall stance and fluency on both sides of the wicket - Pujara has enjoyed success with India Under-19, noticeably his 211 against England. He also had a fine run in the 2006 World Cup in Sri Lanka, finishing as the highest scorer with 349 runs at an average of 116.

It was only natural that Pujara chose to play cricket: his grandfather Shivlal represented the erstwhile state of Dhrangadhra, while his father Arvind and uncle Bipin played first-class cricket for Saurashtra. Though he initially showed skill bowling legspin, there are many who are glad he stuck to batting, as his numbers at practically every level indicate. He recently toured Zimbabwe and Kenya with India A, scoring a century and two fifties.

Last season, List A
Runs: 156, Ave: 31.20

Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 110, S/R: 171.87

Abhishek Nayar

The first full season Nayar had with Mumbai was an enthralling one - from facing relegation to being 0 for 5 in the semi-final to winning the Ranji Trophy, he saw it all and kept making vital contributions during the campaign. Nayar is a right-arm medium-pacer who bowls first or second change for Mumbai. He is also a handy, albeit not the most elegant, left-hand batsman in the lower middle order, capable of occupying the crease and also hefty hitting. He recently struck back-to-back first-class hundreds - against Karachi Urban and Rest of India.

Last season, List A
Runs: 121, Ave: 17.80
Wickets: 14, Ave: 22.14, Econ: 4.94

Last season, Twenty20
2-0-18-1

Satyajit Satbhai

Satbhai's name was confused for Satyajit Parab's when the teams for the Challengers were announced, a mistake the BCCI soon corrected. Satbhai, the Maharashtra wicketkeeper, has made the transition from a lower-order batsman to an opener over five-and-a-half years of first-class cricket, in which Maharashtra were demoted to the Plate League and then promoted to the Elite League again.

Last season he played only two List A matches for Maharashtra where he scored ducks, and was replaced with younger keepers for the remaining one-dayers and Twenty20 matches. Playing in a team led by Parthiv Patel, it is unlikely Satbhai will get a chance to keep wicket in the Challengers.

Last season, List A
Runs: 0

Iqbal Abdulla

A regular performer at the Mumbai club scene, Abdulla, a left-arm orthodox spinner, came into the limelight when he ran through Haryana's batting line-up with a five-for in a Twenty20 game. He was soon drafted into the Indian Under-19 side for a tri-series in Sri Lanka, where he was the third-highest wicket-taker with eight wickets for 69 runs in 31.1 overs. Abdulla is a smart batsman lower down the order and has the promise to develop into a consistent contributor.

Last season, Twenty20
24.1-0-153-11



Tall and strapping, Pankaj Singh is reaping the rewards of his hard work in domestic cricket © AFP

Pankaj Singh

Pankaj, a tall and strapping right-arm medium-fast bowler from Rajasthan, has progressed from the Under-19 level to the A side with consistent performances since he made his first-class debut in August 2003. By 2006 he started showing signs of having matured, taking Rajasthan to the final of the Ranji Plate league, with 21 wickets at 20.95. In June 2007, Pankaj was asked to join the five-day bowlers' camp in Mysore. Following that he was also called up to bowl at the conditioning camp in Kolkata just before the Indian team left for Bangladesh. A twin tour of Zimbabwe and Kenya with India A followed: a total of 18 wickets in unofficial Tests and ODIs in Kenya earned him a spot for the home series against South Africa A.

Pankaj runs in upright and close to the stumps, and with his open-chested action is capable of generating good pace.

Last season, List A
Wickets: 9, Ave: 45.66, Econ: 5.20

Last season, Twenty20
3-0-17-1

Srikkanth Anirudha

Following in the footsteps of his father, the explosive Kris, Anirudha is an opening batsman who doesn't believe in half measures. A compulsive slasher and puller, he made an impact with a string of rapid scores for Tamil Nadu in the 50 and 30-over arena. He has been around since 2004, but it was only late last season that he showed the potential to cut it at this level. He was the fourth-highest run-getter in the domestic Twenty20 last year, carrying himself into the list of 30 probables for the ICC World Twenty20.

Last season, List A
Runs: 111, Ave: 27.75

Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 285, S/R: 137.68

Niranjan Behera

Another one to have made it to the probables for the ICC World Twenty20, Behera is one of the most consistent performers for Orissa. His batting average of 32.25 and bowling average of 18.50 are reasonable for an allrounder, despite the fact that he has played most of his cricket in the Plate League. His 509 runs at 50.90, the sixth-highest aggregate in the Plate League, were instrumental in Orissa's ascent to the Super League. With the big boys in the Twenty20 matches, he sneaked into the top-10 in both the batting and bowling charts.

Behera bats at No. 3 and is a handy right-arm offbreak bowler.

Last season, List A
Runs: 109, Ave: 36.33
Wickets: 5, Ave: 34.20, Econ.: 5.02

Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 225, S/R: 117.18
29-0-184-12