Rest of India with the Irani Cup 2022

Irani Cup and full-fledged Indian teams

After the most prestigious first-class tournament of India, the Ranji Trophy, it's the Duleep Trophy and the Irani Cup which occupy prominent positions in the domestic calendar of India.

While the Duleep Trophy is played on a zonal basis, the very concept of the Irani Cup is something that separates it from the rest. This concept has earned the annual contest a special niche in the annals of Indian cricket.


The Irani Cup was first held in the 1959-60 season to commemorate the completion of 25 years of the Ranji Trophy. The contest was duly named after Mr Zal R Irani, the late BCCI president.

Since then, the winners of the Ranji Trophy from the previous season and the Rest of India sides have been locking horns in a multi-day game almost every single year.

While, understandably, the ROI team has won the maximum number of Irani titles (25), Ranji heavyweights Mumbai (12) and Karnataka (6) have also shone in this tournament.


Of late, we've seen top performers from various Ranji teams comprising the ROI side and not the leading international players of the country. But before the turn of the century, more often than not, it was a full-fledged Indian test team that used to take the field as ROI — setting up a mouth-watering contest.

And, to everyone's surprise, we've had such high-voltage contests twice in the noughties. Mumbai in 2003 and Delhi in 2008 took on an ROI team that was almost the same as the Indian test side of that time, led by Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble, respectively.


Let's take a look at these two novel and very interesting contests from recent history.

Mumbai vs Rest of India, 2003

Mumbai playing XI: Sachin Tendulkar (C), Wasim Jaffer, Vinayak Mane, Nishit Shetty, Vinod Kambli, Ajit Agarkar, Sairaj Bahutule, Robin Morris, Ramesh Powar, Vinayak Samant (WK) and Avishkar Salvi.

ROI playing XI: Sourav Ganguly (C), Sanjay Bangar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Parthiv Patel (WK), Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, and Laxmipathy Balaji.

Rahul Dravid's 121 helped ROI win the Irani Cup 2003.

This game, played in September 2003, in Chennai, saw ROI coming back and registering an outright victory despite conceding a substantial first innings lead of 97 runs.


ROI, after winning the toss, asked the Ranji champs to bat first and bowled them out for 297 runs. While Tendulkar's 94 and Bahutule's 58 were notable contributions for Mumbai, Zaheer Khan, with his 5/77, stood out for ROI.

However, the near full-strength Indian team in the guise of Rest of India, were bundled out for 202. This was, in large part, thanks to off-spinner Ramesh Powar's 4/64.

Later, though Mumbai were expecting to bat their opposition out of the game, Harbhajan's 4/79 saw them fold up for 244 — still setting a huge target of 340 runs for ROI to win. Once again, Tendulkar (50) was Mumbai's saviour, but this time was supported with the bat by Powar (57).

Although ROI lost their openers early on, subsequently, in a dramatic turn of events, their innings was resurrected by the usual suspects. Rahul Dravid (121) and VVS Laxman (99) got the team within touching distance.

Their partnership of 168 runs proved to be decisive. Then, skipper Sourav Ganguly (27*) and Anil Kumble (11*) made sure there was no further twists and saw the team home for a thrilling three-wicket victory.


Delhi vs Rest of India, 2008

Delhi playing XI: Virender Sehwag (C), Gautam Gambhir, Aakash Chopra, Virat Kohli, Rajat Bhatia, Mithun Manhas, Puneet Bisht (WK), Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Pradeep Sangwan, and Chetanya Nanda.

ROI playing XI: Anil Kumble (C), Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Subramaniam Badrinath, Mohammad Kaif, MS Dhoni (WK), Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, RP Singh, and Munaf Patel.

WK Dhoni's 84 provided the much-required boost for ROI in 2008.

The 2008 Irani Cup encounter played at the Reliance Stadium in Vadodara was witness to some engrossing cricket. Batting first after winning the toss, the ROI side put on a moderate 252 in their first essay.

While Wasim Jaffer (50) was the lone half-centurion for ROI; Ishant Sharma, Chetanya Nanda, and Pradeep Sangwan shared three wickets each for Delhi. Subsequently, Munaf Patel, with his fiery spell of 4/31, made sure that Delhi didn't run away with the game. The Ranji champions eventually succumbed to 177 all out.

With a 75-run lead, ROI held the upper hand in the game, but by no means had sealed the contest. In the decisive second innings, Rahul Dravid (69) and MS Dhoni (84) made sure that Delhi didn't claw back into the game.

Unfortunately for Delhi, Nanda's impressive 5/48 could not prevent ROI from notching up 302 on the board.

A target of 378 runs in the fourth innings against the likes of Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh looked improbable right from the outset for Delhi.


Barring Gautam Gambhir (91) who went down fighting, not one Delhi batter was able to put up a substantial score. Consequently, Delhi collapsed for 190 and lost the game by 187 runs. Thanks to India's legendary spin twins' performances: Harbhajan (4/31) and Kumble (3/19), ROI won this contest.

It's really unfortunate that after this game in 2008, not once has the full-strength ROI team, featuring the country's leading international players, has played in the Irani Cup. With a busy international schedule these days, the prospects of the Indian team players turning up for the Irani Cup in the near future look bleak.

As cricket fans, we can only hope that BCCI does something in this regard. Indian international players playing in domestic competitions as a team will definitely be a win-win for Indian cricket.

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Edited by
Akshay Saraswat
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