Eight, set, go! As many as eight from Vidarbha including umpire Ulhas Gandhe will be seen in action in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) which begins in Dubai in three days’ time.
The defending champions Mumbai Indians will lock horns with three-time champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the inaugural encounter on September 19 at Abu Dhabi.
After the tournament opener on Saturday, Dubai will host its first game on Sunday when Delhi Capitals clash with Kings XI Punjab followed by the third match on Monday between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). The IPL action will shift to Sharjah on September 22 where Rajasthan Royals will host CSK.
There will be 10 double headers with the first match starting at 3.30 pm. All evening matches will begin at 7.30 pm. In all, 24 matches will be held in Dubai, 20 in Abu Dhabi and 12 in Sharjah, the oldest venue in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
This is for the first time so many players from the region are actually part of the different teams in the IPL set-up. Although only Umesh Yadav and Darshan Nalkande are in the main squad of RCB and Kings XI Punjab, respectively, other five Vidarbha players are also in the UAE with various teams as net bowlers. These five bowlers will travel with the team but won’t get a chance to play in the XI unless in exceptional cases.
Vidarbha’s experienced umpire Ulhas Gandhe reached UAE last week and has also completed his six days home quarantine period at his hotel room. The 45-year-old Gandhe is expecting to get around 10-12 matches in this year’s IPL.
For Vidarbha cricket fans, all eyes will be on Umesh Yadav. The 32-year-old ‘Vidarbha Express’ would like to fire on all cylinders after a forgettable IPL season last year in India. ‘Bablu’, as he is fondly called by his friends and teammates, will be aiming to give better performance this time around and also impress his RCB skipper Virat Kohli. An impressive performance in the IPL will keep him in good stead and also bolster his chances of cementing his permanent place in the Indian team.
Yadav has been regular ever since he made his IPL debut in 2010 with Delhi Daredevils. The tall pacer then represented Kolkata Knight Riders from 2012-14. In 2018, Yadav was the highest wicket-taker for RCB with 20 wickets from 14 matches. In his third consecutive year for RCB, the speedster will look to spearhead the bowling department.
Darshan Nalkande has been representing Kings XI Punjab for the last couple of years. Although the young medium-pacer has not played any IPL matches for the franchise so far, he gained a lot of valuable experience by sharing the dressing room with great players.
Left-arm pacer Shrikant Wagh, Aditya Thakare, Nachiket Bhute, Sourabh Dubey and Yash Thakur are also offering their services as net bowlers and sources said they are doing a good job in their respective teams’ net sessions.
The Rajasthan Royals have picked 31-year-old Vidarbha all-rounder Wagh in their bowling squad. Thakare is in UAE as one of the net bowlers for the RCB. The 21-year-old has been impressive throughout the previous Ranji Trophy season. The tall and lanky Thakare, who hails from Akola, also did extremely well in the CK Nayudu Trophy where he grabbed 46 wickets in eight matches. He was also part of the U-19 World Cup team under the captaincy of Prithvi Shaw.
Another Vidarbha youngster Saurabh Dubey is accompanying the Mumbai Indians as a net bowler. Dubey, 21, played a key role in Vidarbha’s campaign in the CK Nayudu Trophy in 2018-19. He had captured 35 wickets in nine matches and helped Vidarbha reach semi-finals. Last November, Dubey became the first from Vidarbha to be selected for India Under-23 one-day bilateral series against Bangladesh. He was the member of Vidarbha team that won their maiden CK Nayudu Under-23 Trophy in Indore.
Talented pacer Nachiket Bhute and Yash Thakur are net bowlers for Kings XI Punjab. Thakur has been the part of Vidarbha Ranji as well as the U-23 team for the last three years. He had also represented India U-19 side.
As far as Bhute is concerned, he came into limelight when he captured a whopping 55 wickets in 2018-19 season to emerge as highest wicket-taker in Cooch Behar Trophy. Last season too, he played a vital role in Vidarbha’s triumph in U-23 CK Nayudu Trophy.