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Ashwin, Jadeja, Pujara set to play Ranji opener

R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja walk back at stumps AFP

The 2017-18 Ranji Trophy is set for a high-profile start, with India regulars R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara and M Vijay expected to play the first round of matches. While Ashwin and Vijay are known to have communicated their availability to the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association, Jadeja and Pujara have been named in the 15-man Saurashtra squad for their first match against Haryana in Lahli from October 6.

The availability of Ashwin and Jadeja, however, is contingent on their selection for the three-match T20I series against Australia beginning on October 7. Both players were rotated out of India's squad for the ODI series against Australia and Sri Lanka.

Saurashtra coach Sitanshu Kotak said Jadeja was slated to join the squad on September 30, while Pujara, who has been named captain, was expected to return to India by the end of the month after finishing his county commitments with Nottinghamshire. While Pujara had a lukewarm season, with 333 runs from 12 innings at an average of 27.75 so far, Ashwin played a pivotal role in securing the Division Two title for Worcestershire and consequently a promotion in the county championship. Ashwin aggregated 214 runs at an average of 42.8, including an 82 in the 137-run win over Durham. Ashwin also finished with 20 wickets, with one of his two five-fors coming against Durham.

Jadeja's last competitive outing, on the other hand, came during the Tests in Sri Lanka, and while he was briefly recalled to the India squad in place of the injured Axar Patel against Australia, he was left out for the last two ODIs. Vijay, meanwhile, has endured a fairly lengthy layoff following a surgery for a wrist injury suffered during the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in March. He had a low-key comeback in the Tamil Nadu Premier League before turning up for India Green in the Duleep Trophy, where he picked up five wickets but scored only 17 runs.

Vijay said he was in a positive frame of mind ahead of a new season. "I am looking forward to playing for India soon," Vijay told ESPNcricinfo. Tamil Nadu will open their campaign against Andhra at the MA Chidambaram Stadium.