VVS return is special in many ways

For most of the stars who will liven up the first round of the Ranji Trophy, this little dip into domestic cricket only represents a bit of practice before a long season of home Tests. But one name stands apart, and stands for something different. VVS Laxman, having bid international cricket goodbye, will turn out for the entire season for Hyderabad. And irrespective of his scores, he will be doing domestic cricket great service. For starters, in the opening round at Mohali, we will learn far more about Harbhajan Singh and Rahul Sharma from watching them bowl to Laxman rather than judging their form against, say, DB Ravi Teja.

Through the season, Laxman will help sieve the best from a large pool of bowlers by playing against them and passing on first-hand information about their ability. He should help selectors judge if the likes of Jalaj Saxena, Harmeet Singh, Rituraj Singh, Sandeep Sharma and Deepak Chahar can cut it at the international level. Conversely, the domestic players might realise what it takes to bowl to a quality batsman and get his wicket in long-duration cricket. They are likelier to cherish this experience than merely sharing space with stars during the IPL.

Taking the gamble of converting a wannabe CRPF cop into a first-class cricketer, the Delhi selectors once asked Rahul Dravid to take a look at a raw left-arm seamer. Having taken a blow on the helmet, Dravid said that Pawan Suyal was definitely worth investing in. Last year, when Sourav Ganguly said that Indian pacers lack strength, and that Ashok Dinda was the best of the lot, he was speaking from the experience of playing with and against all the top domestic bowlers. In the past, a number of legends played a season of domestic cricket before saying their final goodbyes, to give something back to the system.

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