Laxman to captain South Zone, Kaif leads Central
VVS Laxman and Mohammad Kaif have been named captains of the South and Central Zone squads for the Duleep Trophy. Both sides will kick off their campaign against each other on January 22 in Bangalore.
Laxman only played one Ranji Trophy game this season, but made it a memorable one with 224 against Rajasthan. His presence, along with Rahul Dravid's, make for a formidable South Zone side, which includes Robin Uthappa and S Badrinath. Anoop Pai, Hyderabad's leading run-scorer this Ranji season, has also earned a spot.
Five Tamil Nadu players feature. The opener Abhinav Mukund has been rewarded for an impressive Ranji season, in which he scored 856 runs at 85.60, with four centuries, Dinesh Karthik dons the gloves on the basis of a strong season, and L Balaji's 36 wickets at 17.50 apiece in his comeback season have earned him a spot. Badrinath and the offspinner R Ashwin, who took 24 Ranji wickets, are the other TN players.
Sreesanth's form and fitness will be closely monitored. He played only one Ranji match for Kerala, in which he took seven wickets against Jharkhand, and will get between one and three games to prove himself. Pragyan Ojha, selected to tour Sri Lanka with India's ODI side, adds depth to South's spin department.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Tanmay Srivastava, Uttar Pradesh's leading wicket-taker and run-scorer in the Ranji Trophy, have been included in the Central squad, along with state-mate Shivakant Shukla, who came to prominence this season. Naman Ojha is the wicketkeeper and Piyush Chawla and Murali Kartik make up the spin component. RP Singh, ignored for the Sri Lanka tour, has been included.
The Duleep Trophy is yet another chance for Kaif, who scored 529 runs in the Ranji Trophy, to stake his claim for re-selection to the national side. After captaining UP to their third Ranji final in three seasons, Kaif recently told Cricinfo he was still hopeful.
South Zone squad: VVS Laxman (capt), S Badrinath, Abhinav Mukund, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Dravid, Arjun Yadav, Dinesh Karthik (wk), R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, L Balaji, Sreesanth, R Vinay Kumar, Saurabh Bandekar, Suresh M, Anoop Pai.
Central Zone squad: Mohammad Kaif (capt), Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Anureet Singh, Robin Bist, Piyush Chawla, Faiz Fazal, Yere Goud, Murali Kartik, Naman Ojha (wk), Pankaj Singh, Parvinder Singh, Jalaj Saxena, Shivakant Shukla, RP Singh, Tanmay Srivastava.