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Ashok Menaria in a Ranji match for Rajasthan

India ‘A’ completed a clean sweep of the three-match unofficial ODI series against New Zealand ‘A’ after winning a thriller at Visakhapatnam yesterday.

The entire tournament threw up potential international stars for both teams. For cricketers Mark Gillespie, Luke Ronchi and India discard Robin Uthappa, this was a chance to remind the selection panel that they were still in the scheme of things.

One of the stand-out performers in the series was a relatively lesser-known lad from Udaipur, whose all-round display secured the last two games for the Indians. There was a hint of calmness about his approach, and the shots he essayed all over the park in the final game bore testament to his immense talent.

Ashok Lakshminarayan Menaria made a rather unusual career choice when he decided to focus on cricket, given that he hails from a community of priests in Udaipur.

He made his first-class debut for Rajasthan against Mumbai in the Ranji Trophy Super League in November 2008, taking the wickets of Rohit Sharma, Sairaj Bahutule and Ajit Agarkar with his innocuous left-arm spin; his side eventually lost by a huge margin, though his performance received some praise.

He honed his cricketing skills at the RCA Centre of Excellence, and later captained the India U-19 team on the tour to Australia in 2009, winning the ODI series there. His all-round performances prompted the selectors to retain him as skipper for the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand, but it was a disappointing outing as India lost to Pakistan in the quarter-finals.

In the  2010-11 season, Ashok steered Rajasthan to its first ever Ranji title; he scored successive centuries in the quarter-finals, semi-finals and the finals.

His maiden three-figure knock in first-class cricket came against domestic powerhouse Mumbai, who had won the title an unprecedented 39 times till then; the left-hander thwarted their hopes by helping his side post a massive total, enabling a victory on the basis of a vital first-innings lead.

These exploits led to an IPL contract with the Rajasthan Royals, for whom he made his debut in 2011.

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