Sri Lanka seamer Fernando, Munaf to play in Ranji for Vadodara

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Vadodara, Sep 16 (UNI) Hardly 20 days after banning outsiders from representing in any future tournaments, to give opportunity to local players, the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) has taken a U-turn roping in four outstation players, including star Sri Lanka seamer Dilhara Fernando, for the forthcoming Ranji trophy championship.

Besides Fernando, the association has also signed with Indian seamer Munaf Patel, left-arm spinner Rajesh Pawar and middle-order batsman Azhar Bilakhi as ''guest players'' of BCA Ranji squad for the 2008-09 domestic season.

The management of BCA, which had imposed the ban suo motu last month, had laid down stringent criteria to allow outsiders only in junior categories, following strong resentment among local players. However, it changed the decision after the BCCI technical committee headed by Sunil Gavaskar recently permitted state associations to play a veteran foreign player in addition to the existing policy of three ''guest players'' in a Ranji squad.

When asked a BCA official said the move had been taken in view of the BCCI's new regulations aimed at making the premier domestic tournament more competitive. Being a strong contender, BCA could not take any chance with all local talents under the present circumstances, he said, adding that the ban on outsiders would, however, remain in force for all other junior tournaments to be conducted by the BCA.

Complying to September 15 BCCI deadline for the state associations, to register their guest players, the BCA yesterday sent its list immediately after the Sri Lankan bowler gave his consent to the BCA's offer to play in Ranji for Vadodara.

Sources said Vadodara, which lost to Delhi in the semi-finals last year, has considerably strengthened its bowling department with the inclusion of Fernando and Munaf Patel, who had been representing Maharashtra Ranji team.

Of the four guest players, Azhar Bilakhia had switched over to BCA from Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA) last year, while Mumbai discard Rajesh Pawar joined Vadodara in 2003-04 and continued to play since then with consistency.

UNI SS RN RKM RK2009

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