The Ranji Trophy, India's premier domestic tournament, will kick off from November 2 with 27 teams, divided into three groups, vying for the coveted title.
Group A, comprising of defending champions Rajasthan, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Madhya Pradesh, Saurashtra, Railways, Bengal, Punjab and Gujarat, is apparently the toughest one among three. Though the departure of Aakash Chopra to Himachal Pradesh is a big jolt for Rajasthan they still have a string of quality players, led by inspiring skipper Hrishikesh Kanitkar, in their ranks who helped them lift the Ranji Trophy two years in a row.
Mumbai have always been a force to reckon with in India's domestic circuit and this time as well they have a good team at disposal. Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma will try to pile up runs to claim their place in India’s Test side while Dhawal Kulkarni and captain Ajit Agarkar form a fine pace attack. Zaheer Khan and Sachin Tendulkar are also in the squad but they're unlikely to play more than a couple of matches as they would be representing India against England in the home Test series.
Group A comprises Rajasthan, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Madhya Pradesh, Saurashtra, Railways, Bengal, Punjab and Gujarat.
Bengal are too dependent on Ashok Dinda and Manoj Tiwary and would need the assistance of other players like Anustup Majumdar and allrounder Laxmi Shukla to reinforce their chances. VVS Laxman's decision to play this year's Ranji Trophy will boost Hyderabad's spirits but there's nothing more to write home about their team. Punjab is another team to look out for in the group. Mandeep Singh and Sandeep Sharma are the youngsters to watch out for while Harbhajan Singh, the captain of the side, would be eager to perform and revive his Test career. Yuvraj Singh might play some matches if he would not get selected for Test series against England.
Prediction: Rajasthan, Mumbai and Bengal to progress to the quarter-finals.
Bengal: Manoj Tiwary (capt), Rohan Banerjee, Jayojit Basu, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Parthasarathi Bhattacharjee, Anirban Chatterjee, Subhomoy Das, Anustup Majumdar, Arnab Nandi, Writam Porel, Ashok Dinda, Veer Pratap Singh, Sourav Sarkar, Iresh Saxena, Laxmi Shukla
Gujarat: Parthiv Patel (capt/wk), Priyank Kirit Panchal, Mehul Patel, Manprit Juneja, Rakesh Dhurv, Faisal Dudhat, Bhargav Merai, Rush Kalaria, Akshar Patel, Niraj Patel, Smit Patel, Amit Singh, Venugopal Rao, Salil Yadav, Bhavik Thaker
Hyderabad: VVS Laxman (capt), Dwaraka Ravi Teja, Vishal Sharma, Anwar Ahmed, Mohammed Khader, Abhinav Kumar, Ashish Reddy, Pragyan Ojha, Ibrahim Khaleel (wk), Pagadala Naidu, Syed Quadri, Hanuma Vihari, Akshath Reddy, Akshath Reddy, Arjun Yadav, Bavanaka Sandeep
Madhya Pradesh: Devendra Bundela (capt), Udit Birla, Anand Ranjan, Anand Singh, Ankit Sharma, Asif Ali, Gaurav Yadav, Satyam Choudhary, Harpreet Singh, Naman Ojha (wk), Rameez Khan, Ishwar Pandey, Chandrakant Sakure, Jalaj Saxena, Zafar Ali, Amit Sharma
Mumbai: Ajit Agarkar (capt), Ankeet Chavan, Akhil Herwadkar, Zaheer Khan, Dhawal Kulkarni, Iqbal Abdulla, Abhishek Nayar, Ramesh Powar, Kaustubh Pawar, Ajinkya Rahane, Aditya Tare (wk), Rohit Sharma, Sachin Tendulkar
Punjab: Harbhajan Singh (capt), Mandeep Singh, Karan Goel, Amitoze Singh, Gurkirat Ahluwalia, Bipul Sharma, Manpreet Gony, Jiwanjot Singh, Siddarth Kaul, Uday Kaul (wk), Sanddep Sharma, Rajwinder Singh, Rahul Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, Mayank Sidhana
Railways: Sanjay Bangar (capt), Ranjitkumar Mali, Anureet Singh, Ashish Yadav, Avinash Yadav, Nitin Bhille, V Cheluvaraj, Murali Kartik, Mahesh Rawat (wk), Amit Paunikar, Hardik Rathod, PM Madkaikar, Shivakant Shukla, Marripuri Suresh, Krishnakant Upadhyay
Rajasthan: Hrishikesh Kanitkar (capt), Robin Bist, Gajendra Singh, Aniket Choudhary, Vaibhav Deshpande, Madhur Khatri, Manjeet Singh, Ankit Lamba, Ashok Menaria, Pankaj Singh, Puneet Yadav, Rashmi Parida, Vineet Saxena, Rituraj Singh, Dishant Yagnik (wk)
Saurashtra: Jaydev Shah (capt), Balkrishna Jadeja, Aarpit Vasavada, Bhushan Chauhan, Sheldon Jackson, Nayan Doshi, Ravindra Jadeja, Sagar Jogiyani (wk), Shitanshu Kotak, Jayesh Odedra, Kamlesh Makvana, Chirag Pathak, Cheteshwar Pujara, Saurya Sanandiya, Jaydev Unadkat
Rajasthan v Mumbai - November 9-12, 2012
Mumbai v Bengal - December 1-4, 2012
Rajasthan v Hyderabad - December 29, 2012 - January 1, 2013