Some established names such as Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer and Bhuvneshwar Kumar will be aiming to make an impression before the white-ball series against England when the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy gets underway in bio-secure bubbles across six venues on Saturday.
Iyer, who missed the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as he was recovering from a shoulder injury, along with the likes of Bhuvneshwar and Dhawan will be keenly watched during the tournament.
Tamil Nadu, winners of the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, head into the tournament with a strong team while Karnataka, Mumbai and Delhi will also fancy their chances.
The tournament will give the players a chance to impress the national selectors before the ODI and T20I series against England, which will begin in March. India is slated to play five T20Is in Ahmedabad and three ODIs in Pune.
This is the second domestic tournament to be conducted by the BCCI in this curtailed season after the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the national T20 championship.
A lot of the focus will be on Iyer, who is back to leading Mumbai. The domestic giants also have a new coach in former India off-spinner Ramesh Powar. He will be eager to make an impact and so will the prolific Suryakumar Yadav, who will be keen to gran an elusive India spot.
Even Prithvi Shaw, who has been named Shreyas’ deputy and has been short of runs, will want to bounce back stronger.
Mumbai had a forgettable outing in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, failing to make it past the group stage after going down to Puducherry.
Pacer Bhuvaneshwar, who will lead Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi opener Dhawan, who last played in the series against Australia, will be raring to go.
Baroda, after their impressive runners-up show in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, will be bolstered by the return of skipper and all-rounder Krunal Pandya, who had to leave the national T20 championship mid-way following his father’s death.
Tamil Nadu, led by Dinesh Karthik, will be aiming to make it two out of two this season. Their squad, however, will be missing the services of left-arm pacer T Natarajan after he was released following a request from the BCCI, who wanted him to be fresh for the white-ball series against England.
Things won’t be easy for Tamil Nadu as they will face stiff competition from teams like Punjab and Karnataka in their group.
Bengal will miss the services of experienced campaigner Manoj Tiwary and it will be a challenge for stand-in skipper Anustup Majumdar after the team made a group-stage exit in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Explosive left-handed opener Vivek Singh is in sublime form and will look to prove himself again after the IPL snub. Abhimanyu Easwaran has been released from the India squad and is available and he will form the backbone of Bengal’s batting.
The teams have been divided into six groups – five Elite Groups, one Plate Group. The group stage will be followed by the quarter-finals, with the summit clash scheduled for March 14.
Groups and venues
Elite Group A (venue – Surat): Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Hyderabad, Tripura, Baroda, Goa.
Group B (Indore): Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha, Andhra.
Group C (Bengaluru): Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Railways, Bihar.
Group D (Jaipur): Delhi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Pondicherry.
Group E (Kolkata): Bengal, Services, Jammu and Kashmir, Saurashtra, Haryana, Chandigarh.
Plate: Uttarakhand, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim.