West and Central Zone have announced the squads for the upcoming Duleep Trophy, naming Ajinkya Rahane and Karan Sharma as their captains for the tournament respectively. The former is making a comeback from injury and will be playing his first professional game after a break of nearly five months.
The Duleep Trophy is set to return in its full glory from September 8 in Tamil Nadu, with the final scheduled to take place on September 25. The first-class tournament had to be scrapped last season owing to COVID-19 restrictions but has now been given the honour to kickstart India's domestic calendar for the new season. For the last four editions, the event took place between just three sides assigned the name of India Blue, India Red and India Green. However, the old format will be restored this year which saw the West, East, North, South and Central Zones battle it out for the trophy, albeit with the addition of a sixth team, North East Zone.
In the latest developments, it was confirmed that Gujarat's Ajinkya Rahane will lead the West Zone in the tournament, a traditionally strong team courtesy of the plethora of Mumbai stars it inherits. This time around, the panel of chief state selectors from the zone have selected seven players from the Ranji Trophy 2022 finalists, headlined by skipper Prithvi Shaw.
Saurashtra's pace duo of Jaydev Unadkat and Chirag Jani will be joining the team's rank as well along with Rahane's Ranji teammates Chintan Gaja and Het Patel. Atit Seth will be Baroda's sole representative in the squad, while Satyajeet Bachhav and Rahul Tripathi will be the flag bearers for Maharashtra.
As for Central Zone, the charge of affairs has been handed to the relatively inexperienced Karan Sharma and Ranji champions Madhya Pradesh's emerging star Shubham Sharma has been named his deputy. Unlike West, Central lacks the big names but still has a strong team to boast of with most central characters in Madhya Pradesh's unexpected triumph named in the squad, namely Venkatesh Iyer, Yash Dubey and Kumar Kartikeya. In Priyam and Rinku Singh, the outfit also possesses a great deal of young talent.
West Zone: Ajinkya Rahane (c), Prithvi Shaw, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shreyas Iyer, Hardik Tamore, Shams Mulani, Tanush Kotian, Shardul Thakur, Rahul Tripathi, Satyajeet Bachhav, Het Patel, Chintan Gaja, Jaydev Unadkat, Chirag Jani, Atit Sheth.
Central Zone squad: Karan Sharma (c), Shubham Sharma (vc), Himanshu Mantri (wk), Yash Dubey, Priyam Garg, Rinku Singh, Ashok Menaria, Akshay Wadkar (wk), Gaurav Yadav, Venkatesh Iyer, Deepak Dhopola, Aniket Chaudhary, Kumar Kartikey, Aditya Sarvatey, Ankit Rajput.