India players Mohammed Shami, Wriddhiman Saha and Umesh Yadav will provide the star quotient to the Ranji Trophy semi-final clashes beginning on December 17. While Shami and Saha will turn out for Bengal against Delhi in Pune, Umesh will join the Vidarbha side that takes on Karnataka in Kolkata.
The participation of Ishant Sharma, who was named Delhi's captain at the start of the season, though, remains in doubt given his troublesome ankle. Ishant has picked up 20 wickets at an average of 12.80 from four matches this Ranji season, including a five-for against Assam, and if fit, would be a big boost to his side's chances of making the final.
"He had a bit of a problem with the ankle, so that's why we need a clearance from [India coach] Ravi Shastri and the board," Delhi's chairman of selectors Atul Wassan told ESPNcricinfo. "We are in touch with the team management. He wants to play, I think, but by tomorrow it will be more clear. As yet, we are waiting for the all-clear from the team management."
Meanwhile, Karnataka State Cricket Association officials denied reports that KL Rahul would be released from India's T20 squad against Sri Lanka for the Ranji Trophy. "Rahul and Manish Pandey are part of the India squad playing against Sri Lanka and haven't been released for the semi-finals," an official said.
There was some confusion earlier among the teams around the availability of their stars. It is understood while the selectors were against risking the fast bowlers ahead of the South Africa tour, the BCCI made the decision to play them in the semi-finals following requests from the state sides. It is learnt Bengal and Vidarbha had requested the board to allow the participation of Shami and Saha, and Umesh respectively.
While Saha has made 230 runs from seven innings, including two fifties at an average of 38.33, Shami picked up 18 wickets from three games, with two five-wicket hauls. Umesh, on the other hand, took nine wickets from two matches for Vidarbha during the league phase.