Bangalore: With the cricketing attention firmly on the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka, a truncated Rajasthan, the reigning Ranji Trophy champions, take on Rest of India in the five-day Irani Trophy game, the traditional domestic season opener here from Friday.
Besides missing out a couple of key players who are away in New Zealand with the India A team, Rajasthan will also be without their star batsman Akash Chopra, who has shifted allegiance to Himachal Pradesh.
Also not in the Rajasthan squad, captained by Hrishikesh Kanitkar, are spinner Ashok Menaria and seamer Rituraj Singh, both in the India A team currently touring New Zealand.
Their absence is bound to dilute the bowling that will have to contend with a strong batting line-up headed by skipper Cheteshwar Pujara himself.
Rajasthan would also be missing the crowd support after the match was shifted from Jaipur due to heavy rains that hampered pitch preparations, leading to shifting of the venue to Bangalore.
On the other hand, Rajasthan have recalled a couple of young guns like batsman Ankit Lamba, 20, who last played a first class game three seasons ago, and seamer Raman Chahar, 23, returning to the squad after a two-year break.
In contrast, the Rest of India, winners the previous six times, appear to hold all the aces, given the array of talent in the squad. In fact, they seem to be spoilt for choice in both batting and bowling.
However, of greater relevance is that the game provides an excellent opportunity for players on the fringes of National recognition and also those wanting to regain their spots in the India squad ahead of a season packed with international fixtures.
Among the younger lot in the Rest of India squad, left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh, one of the heroes of last month`s Under-19 World Cup triumph, will be under scrutiny should he make it to the playing eleven.
The teams (from):
Rest of India: Cheteshwar Pujara (captain), Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, Subramaniam Badrinath, Dinesh Karthik, Wriddhiman Saha, Yusuf Pathan, Pragyan Ojha, Parvinder Awana, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Shikhar Dhawan, Stuart Binny, Abhimanyu Mithun, Harmeet Singh.
Rajasthan: Hrishikesh Kanitkar (captain), Dishant Yagnik, Aniket Choudhary, Ankit Lamba, Vineet Saxena, Sumeet Mathur, Gajendra Singh, Madhur Khatri, Deepak Chahar, Raman Chahar, Robin Bisht, Arijit Gupta, Vaibhav Deshpande, Puneet Yadav, Rashmi Ranjan Parida.