Indian Premier League 2011 January 11, 2011

Rajasthan pick four as franchises focus on Ranji final

Rajasthan Royals have picked four players from the Rajasthan Ranji squad and Mumbai batsman Ajinkya Rahane as a part of their uncapped basket. Aakash Chopra is the most prominent name among the Rajasthan players signed with the other three being middle-order batsman Ashok Menaria, seamer Deepak Chahar and wicketkeeper Dishant Harendra Yagnik. Along with Chopra, who moved to Rajasthan as a professional from his home state of Delhi this season, both Menaria and Chahar's spectacular performances helped Rajasthan reach the Ranji Trophy final after 36 years.

Rahane has been a prolific scorer in domestic cricket, and averages 69.01 from 47 first-class games, and 40.41 from 43 List A matches. He was a crucial factor in Mumbai's 38th and 39th Ranji title wins, making 1089 and 809 runs.

"We are pretty happy with what we have got," Sean Morris, the Rajasthan franchise's CEO, said. Morris also explained how Chopra, a former India Test opener, was an uncapped player. "According to the IPL rules if a player has not played for India in the last five seasons he automatically becomes uncapped," he said. Chopra, who played the first two IPL seasons with Kolkata Knight Riders, confirmed the development.

Meanwhile Rajasthan's Ranji captain Hrishikesh Kanitkar has been approached by Kochi. "We are talking to him," Mehul Shah, one of the Kochi owners said. It is also understood that Pune Warriors have come to an agreement with Kamran Khan, the left-arm fast bowler who played for Rajasthan in the second IPL, but was sent back midway during the campaign to correct his action, which was found to be questionable.

Kolkata Knightriders have sent in "10-12" requests to IPL for players they would be interested in. Royal Challengers Bangalore were negotiating with hometown boy Mayank Agarwal, who was part of the India Under-19 World Cup team last year.

The Baroda Ranji side has attracted attention as well, with captain Pinal Shah, left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt, allrounder Swapnil Singh, batsman Kedar Devdhar and seamer Murtuja Vahora said to be in advanced stages of discussions with some franchises.

Two days after the auction, all ten franchises have been frantically hunting for quality uncapped players, a scarce commodity in Indian cricket. Various team owners rushed to Baroda hours after the weekend auction to woo players like Ambati Rayudu, one of the performers in IPL 2010 and a vital part of Mumbai Indians' run to the final.

The buzz at the Moti Bagh ground was in contrast to the Ranji semi-final, which was played at the Reliance Stadium in Baroda, watched mostly by journalists, a handful of spectators, and a few stray dogs. Not that the cricket so far has been attractive enough to drive fans to the ground, but the rush among the IPL franchises to sign uncapped domestic players suddenly turned the spotlight on a domestic match.

Siddhartha Mallya, owner of Bangalore, checked in on Monday morning as teams were getting ready for the final net season before the final day. While Mallya was one of the early IPL birds to arrive in Vadodara, there are reports that many more are headed to the city which is home to Chirayu Amin, head of the IPL governing council, and also the president of the Baroda Cricket Association. Among those expected to arrive tomorrow are Manoj Badale, co-owner of the Rajasthan Royals, Ness Wadia, co-owner of the Kings XI Punjab, and Geoff Lawson, coach of the Kochi team. Amin himself was at the ground today, and apparently it was one of the extremely rare occasions on which the president has been seen at a domestic match in Vadodara.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo, Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant