Some established names such as Shikhar Dhawan and Shreyas Iyer will be aiming to make an impression before the white-ball series against England, when the Vijay Hazare 50-over competition gets underway in bio-secure bubbles across six venues on Saturday. Shreyas Iyer, who missed the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as he was recovering from a shoulder injury, along with others like Bhuvaneshwar Kumar and Dhawan will be keenly watched during the tournament. While Tamil Nadu, winners of the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, have a strong team, others like 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 against England 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. The focus will be firmly on Shreyas, who is back to lead Mumbai, the domestic giants, who 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 is close to making the Indian team.
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 Mushtaq Ali Trophy, failing to make it past the group stage and going down to minnows Puducherry. Pacer Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, who will lead Uttar Pradesh, will be raring to go as well and so will another white-ball specialist Shikhar Dhawan, who last played in the series against Australia.
He will be playing under Pradeep Sangwan for Delhi. Baroda, after their impressive runners-up show in the 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 demise.
Tamil Nadu, led by Dinesh Karthik, will be aiming to make it two out of two this season. They have the team to aim for a double. The squad, however, will be missing the services of yorker specialist T Natarajan after he was released following a request from BCCI, which wanted him to be fresh for the white ball series against England.
It won’t be easy for Tamil Nadu, as they will face stiff competition from teams like Punjab and Karnataka, always a force to reckon with in national competitions.
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 exit in Mushtaq Ali.
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. He will form the back-bone of their batting.
The teams have been divided into six groups – five Elite Groups, one Plate Group. The group stage will be followed by the quarterfinals with the summit clash scheduled for March 14.
Elite Group A: Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Hyderabad, Tripura, Baroda, Goa (Surat)
Group B: Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Vidarbha, Andhra (Indore)
Group C: Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha, Railways, Bihar (Bengaluru)
Group D: Delhi, Mumbai, Maharashtra, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Pondicherry (Jaipur)
Group E: Bengal, Services, Jammu and Kashmir, Saurashtra, Haryana, Chandigarh (Kolkata)
Plate: Uttarakhand, Assam, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim (Tamil Nadu).
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