Here's a look at the second round of Ranji Trophy matches, which are starting on Thursday.
Jaipur: A confident Bengal side is hopeful of posing a strong challenge for an under-pressure Uttar Pradesh, who will be without their skipper Suresh Raina, in a Ranji Trophy group league encounter.
While it will be the opening match for Bengal, Uttar Pradesh would ideally like to pick up pieces after their humiliating innings and 63-run defeat against Madhya Pradesh in their opening game in Hyderabad.
For UP, Raina's absence will affect them especially after a stinging loss. The left-hander was down with viral fever and could not bat in either innings and now he is back in national duty for the ODIs against New Zealand.
"I wouldn't say it's great advantage but a bit of psychological edge that Raina will not be there. Also UP had lost their first match which means they are under a bit of pressure. I am confident that our team would be able to execute the strategy that we have planned for this match," Bengal captain Manoj Tiwary told PTI on Wednesday.
Opening combination has been a perennial worry for Bengal skipper and he is expecting that the pair of Abhimanyu Easwaran and Sayan Sekhar Mondal will do the job for the team.
"We tried Sayan as an opener last year and in a few matches that he played at the top of the order, he looked confident. Abhimanyu has been a good performer for us. So I am expecting that there will be lesser worries as far as top slots are concerned. In the middle-order, a lot will depend on myself and Sudip (Chatterjee). Sudip has now got enough experience and is a match-winner in his own right," he said.
On a personal front, Manoj is only focussing on Ranji Trophy and not looking too far ahead.
"Look, you play the game because you want to play for the country. I believe I still have age on my side. But I am not at all thinking about any of these things. Right now, the focus is to do well. Fisrt get to the knock-out stage and then think about lifting the trophy," the 30-year-old said.
The third player in the middle order will be Pankaj Shaw, who had a decent last season.
The wicketkeeper's gloves will be donned by Shreevats Goswami while it will be Ashoke Dinda and Veer Pratap Singh, who will be sharing the new ball.
Amir Gani will be the spin bowling bowling all-rounder while Pragyan Ojha, the lead spinner.
The only slot that will be up for discussion is likely to be whether to go with additional spinner in Writtick Chatterjee or go with new ball bowler Ayan Bhattacharya.
Delhi confident vs minnows Maharashtra despite Sangwan niggle
Mumbai: Title contenders Delhi and minnows Maharashtra will start off from completely contrasting situations when they square off against each other in the second round Ranji Trophy group league encounter.
While Delhi whipped Assam by an innings and 83 runs in the first game, Maharashtra lost to Jharkhand by six wickets.
Also Maharashtra will be a depleted side with their regular skipper Kedar Jadhav joining the national squad for the ODI series against New Zealand.
Delhi have an injury concern with senior all-rounder Pradeep Sangwan down with a side strain.
Sangwan has not practised for the last two days and will be a doubtful starter against Maharashtra. His presence is important as he lends that fine all-round balance to the side having scored an 87-ball-100 and taken five wickets in the match.
"Sangwan is an important player in our scheme of things. We have given him two days of complete rest just to see if he can get fit by Thursday morning. In case he can't make it, Pawan Suyal (left-arm quick) will be a like for like replacement. As a coach, I believe in horses for courses but obviously would not like the core of the team to be tinkered with," Delhi chief coach KP Bhaskar told PTI on Wednesday.
Bhaskar was all praise for youngsters Rishabh Pant and Nitish Rana, who scored century in the last match.
"I am personally very excited that we have such talent like Rishabh. He may not have played too many matches last season and would look like a bit thin on experience but after U-19 World Cup and IPL with Daredevils, he has shown that he belongs to this level. Nitish is also a fantastic prospect and their performance augurs well for Delhi cricket," said Bhaskar.
For Maharastra, a lot will depend on their middle-order batsman Ankit Bawne, who will have to shoulder bulk of responsibility in absence of Jadhav, who scored half-centuries in both innings.