Ganguly will be the star attraction while leading Bengal in East Zone one-dayers for Vijay Hazare Trophy.
Kolkata: Sourav Ganguly will be the star attraction while leading the Bengal side, even as defending champions Jharkhand and strong contenders Orissa will spice up the East Zone one-dayers for the Vijay Hazare Trophy beginning on Monday.
With the IPL-5 less than two months away, the tournament will provide the perfect platform for the likes of Ganguly and 22-year-old Jharkhand captain Saurabh Tiwary to wield their willows ahead of the cash-rich Twenty20 league.
In the opening day's fixtures, last season's quarter-finalists Bengal will clash against Orissa, while Assam have been drawn against minnows Tripura.
The East zone leg promises to provide a thrilling competiton with the players fresh from their triumph in the Duleep Trophy.
Bengal will be without their regular skipper Manoj Tiwary but they will have the edge with former India skipper Ganguly looking to inspire the side.
The tournament will give yet another opportunity for paceman Ashok Dinda to knock on the selectors' doors, while in Wriddhiman Saha, Anustup Majumdar and Mohammad Shami Ahmed, Bengal promise to be the best side on paper.
"We have always done well in this format of the tournament. This time also there will be no extra pressure.
"Few from the squad had a fine outing in the Duleep Trophy that will definitely help. Anustup (Majumdar) got back to form in Duleep Trophy, something that will put us in a comfort zone," Bengal coach WV Raman said.
Bengal's opponents Orissa might have been relegated in the four-day format, but the neighbourhood state wants to prove themselves in the 50-over version.
"We will look to turn the tide this time around. It's a different format and the boys are upbeat to forget the (Ranji) past," former India seamer Debasis Mohanty, who coached East Zone in their Duleep Trophy win, said.
Assam will miss the services of speedster Abu Nechim Ahmed, who got injured before the Duleep Trophy final as they would look up to the experienced Dheeraj Jadhav.
Assam coach Rajesh Kamath said they were taking inspiration from the domestic Twenty20 tournament where they qualified for the next round along with Bengal.
"We are hoping to keep up the momentum of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy," Kamath said.
Reigning champions Jharkhand will begin their campaign against Tripura on February 22 and coach Tarit Ghosh said they would look to replicate the last season's formula.
"We don't look to individual brilliance. It was a collective effort from the side that helped us win last time. This year is no different," Ghosh said.
Jharkhand will have one-day specialists Saurabh Tiwary, Ishank Jaggi and Duleep Trophy centurion Manish Vardhan as their batting mainstays, while the bowling will be a tad weaker in the absence of Varun Aaron.
February 20: Bengal vs Orissa (Eden), Assam vs Tripura (JU); February 22: Assam vs Orissa (Eden), Jharkhand vs Tripura (JU); February 24: Bengal vs Jharkhand (Eden), Orissa vs Tripura (JU); February 26: Assam vs Jharkhand (Eden), Bengal vs Tripura (JU); February 29: Assam vs Bengal (Eden), Jharkhand vs Orissa (JU).
All matches start at 8.45am.