Mumbai: An absorbing contest is on the cards as the five-team West Zone one-day tournament for the Vijay Hazare Trophy commences here from Wednesday.
Mumbai Cricket Association has earmarked the Wankhede Stadium and its ground at the suburban Bandra-Kurla Complex to host all the ten matches of the round robin competition, that ends on February 28.
The opening day will see Mumbai taking on Baroda at the Wankhede Stadium and Gujarat and Maharashtra clashing at the BKC ground.
Mumbai would be led by new skipper Ajit Agarkar who missed the better part of the 39-time Ranji Trophy champions' unsuccessful campaign in the national championships due to differences with the team management and selectors.
The experienced pacer's presence gives a big boost to their attack that has Dhaval Kulkarni, Balwinder Singh Sandhu Jr. and Kshemal Waingankar along with left-arm spinners Ankit Chavan and Iqbal Abdullah.
Mumbai would be without experienced slow bowler Ramesh Powar who is still to recover fully from the leg injury he sustained in the Ranji semifinals against Tamil Nadu, Agarkar informed ahead of the match.
"Powar is yet to fully recover from his injury. He has been replaced in the squad by wicketkeeper Aditya Tare," said the Mumbai captain.
Mumbai's batting has also been strengthened by the return of Ajinkya Rahane who was unavailable for the Ranji campaign as he was in Australia with the Indian Test squad.
The batting looks strong with Rahane and Wasim Jaffer expected to be the mainstays.
Baroda would be dependent on their allrounder Yusuf Pathan who has recovered fully from the knee injury he sustained in November last.
Pathan, eager to get back into the Indian squad, and another India discard, medium pacer Munaf Patel, and Ambati Rayudu, would have to play key roles for Baroda, which has quite a few new faces from their under-22 and under-19 ranks.
The other match between Gujarat, who are without their regular captain Parthiv Patel (in Australia playing in the triangular one-day series there), and Maharashtra should see a close fight.
The fifth team in the league, Saurashtra, to be led by Jaydev Shah, are to make their first appearance in the tournament on February 23, when they take on Maharashtra at the BKC ground.