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A brief history of the Challenger Series

There have been eight Challenger tournaments played so far, with the first one being held in the 1994-95 season

There have been eight Challenger tournaments played so far, with the first one being held in the 1994-95 season. The event had to be cancelled last year due to the Indian team's packed international calendar. The ninth edition of the tournament, to be played in Bangalore from September 10-14, 2003, promises to be an ideal opener to India's cricketing season. Here is a brief history of what happened in the eight previous Challenger Series tournaments.
1994-95 - March 18-21, Eden Gardens, Calcutta
Sachin Tendulkar, captain of the India Seniors side, led from the front, scoring half-centuries in all three matches as his team romped past India A in the final. It was a low-scoring tournament, with no team scoring more than 225 when batting first. The tournament did not throw up any spectacular performances - Utpal Chatterjee took three wickets for India A and forced his way into the national squad for the Asia Cup, but was discarded soon after.
1995-96 - December 28-31, Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium, Hyderabad
This was the final opportunity for the selectors to check out the promising players before choosing the squad for the World Cup, which was held in February -March 1996. This time, Tendulkar led the India A team, and in an exciting opener against India Seniors, his team won by 17 runs win with Venkatapathy Raju picking up six wickets. However, the seniors took revenge in the final when India A finished on 190 for 9, chasing 213. Salil Ankola, who had last played an ODI in 1993-94, displayed impressive control in his three matches for India A. Even though he finished wicketless, he impressed the selectors enough to be picked up in India's World Cup squad.
1996-97 - September 28-October 1, PCA Stadium, Mohali
A star-studded India Seniors side - comprising Mohammad Azharuddin, Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Javagal Srinath - snuffed out the challenge of the two other teams. India B reached the final for the first time, but Tendulkar's 113 - his second century of the tournament - put an end to their fight. VVS Laxman and Pankaj Dharmani had modest tournaments, but made their international debuts against South Africa later that season.
1997-98 - October 9-12, Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai
Local-boy Vinod Kambli set the tone for India Seniors with a fiery 89 in the opener against India A, but the seniors couldn't prevail over India B in their next match, setting up the prospect of an intruiging last league match - the winner would meet India Seniors in the final. India A, led by Ajit Agarkar (3 for 42) and Mohammad Azharuddin (67 not out) romped past India B to make it to the final. However, a target of 225 proved too much for them in the title match, and they fell short by 31 runs.
1998-99 - October 15-18, Motera Stadium, Ahmedabad
The tournament was re-christened the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy, after the former BCCI president. The series turned out to be a washout, as heavy rains meant that only one match could be played - the opener between India and India A, which India A scraped through by one run. Based on points India A and India B were declared joint winners.
1999-2000 - February 10-13, Motera Stadium, Ahmedabad
The venue was Ahmedabad again, but this time it rained runs. High totals were recorded for the first time in the brief history of the tournament, with India Seniors piling up 320 in the final, thanks to centuries from the opening pair of Shiv Sunder Das (114) and VVS Laxman (105). India A managed only 236, giving the senior team a handy win. Mohammad Kaif's good performance - 183 runs in two outings - earned him his India cap in the home series against South Africa. Murali Kartik and Nikhil Chopra were the others who made it into the Test team in the same series.
2000-01 - February 12-15, Chepauk, Chennai
BCCI had named 25 probables for the home series against Australia while simultaneously announcing the squads for the Challengers. So, it all came down to the chosen 25 staking their claims to the national side, while the others were forced to wait for another season. Almost all the matches went down to the wire and the highest score in a Challenger was recorded during the second match, when India piled a massive 392 for 6 (Ganguly 142, H Badani 70). In the final, India successfully chased a target of 311 with the in-form Badani mastering the India A bowlers comfortably.
2001-02 - January 10-13, M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore
India A took the honours with a brilliant display, thrashing India Seniors by eight wickets in a one-sided final. In fact, India A were comfortably the best team in the tournament, beating the seniors in the league match as well. Their star performer was Sarandeep Singh, who took nine wickets in three matches at an average of just 13.