India news January 28, 2013

Dhoni says no to Irani Cup

ESPNcricinfo staff

MS Dhoni, the India captain, will not play the Irani Cup, scheduled to begin on February 6. This year's Irani match is much-anticipated because all of India's cricketers will be free to represent Rest of India against, in all likelihood, a strong Mumbai side, which has taken a healthy lead in the Ranji Trophy final. It is also being looked at as an important match in terms of selection ahead of Australia's Test series in India, which begins on February 22, but Dhoni said he needed some rest.

"No [I will not be available for the Irani Cup], as of now. We have some time before the Test series [against Australia] and I would like to make the most of it," Dhoni said after the final ODI against England in Dharamsala on Sunday.

Following India's 2-1 Test loss to England in December - which was their first Test series defeat at home in eight years - Dhoni's captaincy had come under greater scrutiny than it have ever been during India's poor 18 months in Test cricket, which included away series whitewashes in England and Australia.

Dhoni has not played a domestic first-class game since the Irani Cup in September 2008, when he kept wicket for Rest of India against Delhi. And previous to that, the semi-final of the Ranji Plate League 2004-05 tournament was his last domestic first-class appearance.