Mumbai: A depleted East Zone squad led by Manoj Tiwary will take on a much-fancied North Zone side captained by Harbhajan Singh in the semi-final of the Deodhar Trophy here on Sunday.
On paper, North certainly are the favourites with bulk of the team comprising of Punjab players, who recently finished runners-up in the Vijay Hazare National One Day Championship.
Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh are the key components in the squad, while in-form Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Mandeep Singh also lending solidity to the middle-order.
All-rounders Parveez Rasool and Rishi Dhawan have the ability to turn the match in their side's favour and it makes North a formidable outfit.
Among the pacers, Punjab seamer Sandeep Sharma and Delhi's quick bowler Vikas Tokas could prove to be a handful in helpful conditions apart from India discard Mohit Sharma.
North have a swashbuckling opener in Manan Vohra, who can prove to be a handful during the Powerplay overs, even as Ashoke Dinda and Rahul Shukla will have their task cut out.
With inexplicable exclusion of Veer Pratap Singh, who had 15 wickets in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (3rd highest wicket-taker), East have little option for the third seamer with little known Assam pacer Pritam Laru Das being the back-up option. Deepak Behera doesn't have the pace and Biplab Samantray is more of a batting all-rounder.
The batting will depend a lot on skipper Manoj, who has just scored a big century (130) against Vidarbha in the Hazare quarters following it up with sedate 56 against Karnataka in the semi-final.
The other key batsmen for the side is burly left-hander Saurabh Tiwary and the seasoned Ishank Jaggi. With 400 plus runs in the domestic one dayers this season, wicketkeeper-batsman Shreevats Goswami will be opening the innings.
While veteran Saurashish Lahiri has been picked in the zonal squad, it will be a missed opportunity for young left-hander Sudeep Chatterjee despite some good knocks and a lot of promise.
East Zone: Manoj Tiwary (captain), Kumar Deobrat, Shreevats Goswami, Ishank Jaggi, Saurabh Tiwary, Parvez Aziz, Deepak Behera, Biplab Samantray, Virat Singh, Ashoke Dinda, Rahul Shukla, Pritam Laru Das, Arabind Singh, Saurashish Lahiri, Shahbaz Nadeem.
North Zone: Harbhajan Singh (captain), Manan Vohra, Unmukt Chand, Yuvraj Singh, Mandeep Singh, Gurkeerat Singh Mann, Milind Kumar, Taruwar Kohli, Parveez Rasool, Rishi Dhawan, Nakul Verma (wk), Sandeep Sharma, Vikas Tokas, Amit Mishra, Mohit Sharma.