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Atharva Ankolekar gets his reward, picked for upcoming Vijay Hazare tournament

India's U-19 Asia Cup-winning left-arm spinner Atharva Ankolekar, who emerged as the highest wicket-taker with 12 scalps including a fifer in the summit clash against Bangladesh in Colombo, was yesterday rewarded with a spot in the senior Mumbai team for the first time. The teenager was picked by the Milind Rege-led senior selection committee for the Vijay Hazare Trophy. India player Shreyas Iyer will lead defending champions Mumbai's challenge. Suryakumar Yadav will be his deputy in the 50-over tournament to be played in Bangalore from September 24.

No rest after Colombo

After arriving from Sri Lanka on Sunday, Atharva has been giving a good account of himself while bowling to the Mumbai senior team at the Mumbai Cricket Association's Bandra Kurla Complex indoor academy. "We have to look for boys who have that fire in their belly. When a cricketer plays for India in age-group tournament, we have to look at them differently because they have became international cricketers now. He [Atharva] is a good cricketer and has done well. I have seen him. He is a good batsman and a brilliant fielder too. Such players, who are playing for India, have to be given more scope. Here's hoping he will seize this opportunity," Rege told mid-day yesterday.

Yashasvi Jaiswal, 17, who is part of the India U-23 team for the five-match one-day series against Bangladesh U-23, beginning in Raipur tomorrow, and Sarfaraz Khan, 21, whohas returned to the city after representing Uttar Pradesh, has also got a place in the Mumbai team after serving the one-year cooling off period.

"They [talented youngsters] must be pitted against better opposition. Only when they will play against names like Shreyas, Surya, Aditya Tare or Siddhesh Lad in the nets, they will know where they stand and accordingly look for improvement. This is our long-term vision. We have to look forward and that's why we had picked Jaiswal also. For how long will the same players represent a team? My committee is looking for players, who have got promise and talent, and we want to see how good they are. We must groom at least six or seven players for the next generation," Rege added.

Mumbai coach Vinayak Samant felt the team have a good chance to defend the title: "It's a good combination of experienced players and youngsters. Players like Sarfaraz, Yashasvi and Atharva have a good opportunity to share the dressing room with seniors like Shreyas, Shardul [Thakur] and Dhawal [Kulkarni] and learn from them."

BEST move?Meanwhile, there was more good news for Atharva. BEST Committee chairman Anil Patankar has promised to try his best to get the teenager a good job with the transport firm, where his mother Vaidehi is employed as a bus conductor. Atharva's late father Vinod worked for BEST. Patankar read about Atharva's achievements and is keen to help. It is learnt that Atharva has also received an offer from a cricket-playing establishment.

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