Tendulkar, Zaheer to play Mumbai's first Ranji game

Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan take part in a practice session ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Ranji Trophy has received a big boost with the selection of Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan for Mumbai's first match, against Railways at Wankhede Stadium. The season kicks off on November 2, and it is understood that both Tendulkar and Zaheer wanted to get some first-class match time before the Test series against England, which begins on November 15. Ajit Agarkar had already been named captain for the first four Mumbai games. Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane are the other attractions in the strong 13-member Mumbai squad, to go with domestic warhorses Ramesh Powar and Abhishek Nayar.

Tendulkar's last Ranji Trophy appearance was Mumbai's final win in 2008-09. Apart from being Mumbai's 38th Ranji title, the match is also remembered for Tendulkar's first first-class duck in Indian domestic cricket. Tendulkar has been going through a lean patch in Test cricket. His last century came in January 2011, and despite looking in good touch in Australia, he didn't score more than 80 in an innings. When he was bowled three times in three innings against New Zealand, former cricketers and commentators, including Sunil Gavaskar, showed concern over his form.

Having played in the Champions League T20 after the New Zealand series, Tendulkar showed eagerness to play some first-class cricket before the big Test season ahead. India play four Tests each against England and Australia.

Zaheer last played for Mumbai just before leaving for Australia last year. He, too, hasn't been in great form since India's World Cup win in 2011. He last took a Test five-for in October 2010. His fitness and endurance have been a concern too. He has played only seven Tests since the World Cup, breaking down in England.

Wasim Jaffer, Suryakumar Yadav and Harmeet Singh were the significant names names missing in the Mumbai squad. Jaffer, the all-time leading run-getter in Ranji Trophy, has asked for leave for Haj pilgrimage. Harmeet is out with a finger injury. Yadav will lead the MCA XI against England A in a tour game that will clash with the Ranji season opener. Consider all these uncertainties, the Mumbai selectors have named the squad only for the first match.

Mumbai squad Ajit Agarkar (capt.), Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Ramesh Poawr, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Abhishek Nayar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Ankeet Chavan, Kaustubh Pawar, Iqbal Abdulla, Aditya Tare (wk), Akhil Herwadkar (wk)