Three members of India's victorious Under-19 World Cup squad - left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh, allrounder Baba Aparajith and medium-pacer Sandeep Sharma - have been rewarded with Challenger Trophy spots. Harmeet has also made it to the Rest of India squad for the Irani Cup match.
"It is a big break for me and it is important to stay calm, and focus on doing the right things in the match," Harmeet told Mid-Day. "I am a bit surprised to get selected in both squads. I was expecting to get selected for Irani Cup."
Harmeet was one of the key performers for India in the U-19 World Cup and former Australia captain Ian Chappell wrote that Harmeet was ready to be considered for national selection. Harmeet, who picked up six wickets from four games, however, said that it was important for him not to lose focus. "I know there is a lot of talk around the U-19 cricketers. It feels good, but my main goal is to make the senior team. I am well aware of the fact that if I keep performing well, people will talk.
"But once I stop performing, nobody will bother. My focus is completely on my game and training. I want to keep doing well," he said.
The Irani Cup, the opening fixture in India's 2012-13 domestic season, has been shifted to Bangalore because of poor weather conditions at the original venue, Jaipur. Cheteshwar Pujara will lead the Rest of India squad against Rajasthan, the 2011-12 Ranji Trophy champions, in the five-day match beginning on September 21.
The 50-over NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, to be played from September 29 to October 2 in Rajkot, will be contested between 2011-12 Vijay Hazare Trophy winners Bengal, India A and India B.
With the selectors picking a young squad, which includes U-19 captain Unmukt Chand, for the upcoming India A tour of New Zealand, the Rest of India team features mostly known names. The 15-man squad has six players who were part of the India Test side against New Zealand recently.
Yusuf Pathan, whose international comeback in March had lasted one Asia Cup game, has found a spot in the Irani Cup as well as the Challenger Trophy squads. M Vijay, who hasn't played for India since the tour of West Indies in mid-2011, is also part of both the first-class and List A squads. Vijay made 558 runs at an average of 46.50 in the previous Ranji Trophy for Tamil Nadu.
One player who has been rewarded for an outstanding domestic season last year is Karnataka allrounder Stuart Binny. Binny, 28, made 742 runs at 67.45 with three hundreds and picked up 20 wickets at 20.10 in the previous Ranji Trophy but was not part of the A squads for the tours of West Indies and New Zealand.
Shikhar Dhawan, who had a poor time in West Indies with the A side, has been picked as well. Parvinder Awana will have more opportunities after getting just one game in West Indies. Abhimanyu Mithun, who went as Praveen Kumar's replacement on India's trip to Australia, is the fourth fast bowler in the Rest of India squad, which includes two wicketkeepers in Wriddhiman Saha and Dinesh Karthik.
Praveen, who's last appearance for India was during the Asia Cup in March, has been picked for the Challenger Trophy.
Rest of India: Cheteshwar Pujara (capt), M Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, S Badrinath, Dinesh Karthik, Wriddhiman Saha, Yusuf Pathan, Pragyan Ojha, Parvinder Awana, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Shikhar Dhawan, Stuart Binny, Abhimanyu Mithun, Harmeet Singh.
India A: S Badrinath (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik, Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Parvinder Awana, Abhimanyu Mithun, Pragyan Ojha, Iqbal Abdulla, Harshal Patel, Udit Birla.
India B: Cheteshwar Pujara (capt), M Vijay, S Aniruddha, Kedar Jadhav, Robin Bist, Stuart Binny, Ravindra Jadeja, Baba Aparajith, Praveen Kumar, Umesh Yadav, Munaf Patel, Harmeet Singh, Rohit Motwani, Sandeep Sharma.