Parthiv Patel and co. won Ranji Trophy after 66 years    AFP
Parthiv Patel and co. won Ranji Trophy after 66 years AFP

A confident Gujarat etched their name in record books at the Holkar Stadium in Indore on January 14 as they clinched their maiden Ranji Trophy title. It was this very venue where Gujarat had lost their game against Holkar in 1950-51. After scripting history this time around, Gujarat s next aim will be to seal yet another title in form of Irani Cup 2016-17 as they will clash against 26-time winners, the Rest of India, on January 20 at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai. Reversing back to 2015-16, it was the same venue where Rest of India met their old rivals Mumbai, and the game saw several records being broken. Mumbai s first innings score of 603 was the highest in First-Class cricket, eventually for a losing cause.

Rest of India created history when they chased a target of 482, which was the fourth highest successful run-chase in First-Class cricket. It was Karun Nair s twin nineties now only the second Indian batsman to hit a Test triple-ton to provide Rest of India one of their best wins. The credit also belonged to Faiz Fazal, the only centurion to help his side set a new record. It is a situation very similar to what one witnessed during the Ranji Trophy final. Gujarat s captain Parthiv Patel was the only centurion to script history and was duly rewarded Man of the Match.

Can Gujarat shock Rest of India and claim their maiden Irani Trophy title?

Gujarat s success and the players to watch out for:

Having won the Syed Mustaq Ali Trophy 2014-15 in shortest format followed by Vijay Hazare Trophy 2015-16 in 50-over format, and now their maiden Ranji Trophy, Gujarat have shown the potential they possess and a squad that is here to stay. The Ranji Trophy win in Indore became sweeter as this was the very venue where they lost the finals in the 1950 s.

There was a Patel then and there is one now. Off-spinner Jasu Patel had smashed a century that went in vain. Parthiv s century was a remarkable one. Not even an ardent Gujarat supporter might have imagined their team winning the prestigious title against 41 times winners, Mumbai.

Parthiv has a knack of scoring big in crucial games. His century against India A in the Deodhar Trophy is also yet another example. But keeping aside the captain s knock, there is a certain Priyank Panchal with 1,300 runs in the Ranji Trophy and Samit Gohel who have brought Gujarat to this stage as well. Both struck triple-century apiece in the current season. Their players have punched above their weight in Ranji Trophy.

Gujarat will witness some changes to the side. Bhargav Merai has been dropped and Mohit Thadani enters while Mehul Patel is dropped as well due to an accidental injury. Junior Asia Cup batsman Het Patel will find his spot.

Starting with their victory in the league matches against Railways, Uttar Pradesh and 5 draws, Gujarat progressed to the semi-final on the basis of a draw with first innings lead against Odisha. They beat Jharkhand and found their spot in the final for second time against mighty Mumbai.

Gujarat s success also belonged to their bowlers RP Singh and Chirag Gaja. With 4 wickets for RP and 8 wickets for Gaja in the final, Gujarat s bowling-unit looks set. However, they will once again miss out on the services of Jasprit Bumrah who is playing for the national side in the ongoing England ODI series.

Gujarat will also be reliable on the services of Hardik Patel, Rush Kalaria and Rujul Bhatt.

Revamped Rest of India and players to watch out for:

Barring Nair, the Rest of India will witness top players from the recently concluded Ranji Trophy season. Fit-again Wriddhiman Saha has been named in the squad. The side will be led by Cheteshwar Pujara.

Nair s triple-century in the recent Test against England and his twin nineties awarding him with Man of the Match in the last season, keeps him ahead in the league. Jharkhand s wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan also is in contention amidst these batsmen.

Saha is making a return to cricket after his thigh injury which he suffered during the series against England. It will also be a competition of sorts with Parthiv, who replaced the Saha in the England series and had a decent comeback to national side after 8 years.

However, Parthiv had different opinions on the competition and speaking in the press conference Parthiv mentioned, It’s a game between Gujarat and the Rest and not between two players. We all know he’s very talented, but it’s a game between two teams not individual players.

Mumbai s Akhil Herwadkar finds a spot ahead of the teenage sensation Prithvi Shaw, who scored a century on his First-Class debut and a fifty in the final against Gujarat. Bengal s captain Manoj Tiwary, who ended with 643 runs, is also in the mix to provide stiff competition to the plethora of batsmen that Gujarat possesses.

Jharkhand and Ranji Trophy s top wicket-taker Shahbaz Nadeem (56) will be the bowler to vouch out for. Chinaman Kuldeep Yadav will also be in ploy along with off-spinner Nadeem. Shardul Thakur has been dropped due to ankle pain instead Mohammad Siraj finds a spot.

Rest of India have won the Irani Cup 26 times. They shocked Mumbai last season, who have won the title 15 times. There was a time Rest of India ruled the Irani Trophy from 2006/07- 2013, including two titles in the same season 2012-13. Rest of India won their maiden Irani Trophy title in 1966-67 against the then defending champions Mumbai.

The young players from Gujarat and Rest of India will not only aim for stairway to Indian team but also ride on their Ranji success.

Squads:

Gujarat: Samit Gohil, Priyank Panchal, Parthiv Patel (c & wk), Het Patel, Rujul Bhatt, Manprit Juneja, Chirag Gandhi, Rush Kalaria, Mohit Thadani, Karan Patel, Hardik Patel, Chintan Gaja, Dhruv Raval, R P Singh and Ishwar Chaudhary.

Rest of India: Abhinav Mukund, Akhil Herwadkar, Cheteshwar Pujara (c), Karun Nair, Manoj Tiwary, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Kuldeep Yadav, Shahbaz Nadeem, Pankaj Singh, K Vignesh, Siddarth Kaul, Mohd Siraj, Akshay Wakhare, Ishan Kishan and Prashant Chopra.

Time: 09:30 local | 04:00 GMT