Indian cricket will embark on a journey into the unknown as the National One Day Championship for the Vijay Hazare Trophy starts Wednesday with 37 teams, including six states from the North East, looking to carve their own identity.
Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Sikkim along with Uttarakhand and Puducherry will make their debut in senior representative (List A) cricket.
For Bihar, it will be a comeback into the mainstream after being left in the lurch for 18 years, and the jury is still out on how far-reaching the implications of the Supreme Court appointed Lodha Committee’s recommendations will be.
All the new teams have been slotted in group D, from which one team will make it to the quarter-finals.
Puducherry, who have domestic stalwarts like Abhishek Nayar and Pankaj Singh in their ranks besides the experienced Paras Dogra, looks to be the best prepared team among the minnows.
Meghalaya have shown a lot of interest while it remains to be seen how well prepared teams like Sikkim, Manipur and Nagaland are.
It has been a nightmare for the Cricket Operations team of BCCI under Saba Karim, who hasn’t got a lot of things right in the build-up to the tournament.
Allegations of corruption and back-door entries in some of the teams have been rampant and BCCI hasn’t been able to keep a vigil on the inter-state transfers.
Matches like Mizoram against Manipur and Meghalya versus Sikkim in Nadiad and Anand in Gujarat, will invoke a lot of curiosity.
Add to the confusion is the structure of the tournament where five teams will qualify from group A and B with two from C and one from D.
However, there is no clarity as to how many from A and B will qualify. Whether it is three plus two or two plus three or four plus one.
For the tried and tested teams, it will be more about getting the combinations right and also staking claims for the various representative teams ahead of the West Indies series and the A tour of New Zealand.
The Delhi team is plagued by its own worries with the Virender Sehwag-led Cricket Committee resigning after a tiff with regular captain Gautam Gambhir on Manoj Prabhakar’s non-appointment as bowling coach.
DDCA has appointed Parvinder Awana as the bowling coach but the only silver lining in the disjointed outfit is the presence of Rishabh Pant, whose explosive batting could make a difference.
Their opening opponents Saurashtra will have Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja playing alongside veterans like Robin Uthappa and the talented Sheldon Jackson.
Suresh Raina will be hoping for another redemption to his international career through the tournament, while Mayank Agarwal and Prithvi Shaw will like to tee off for Karnataka and Mumbai from where they have left off.