It will be a battle of the stars as a star-studded Delhi team, comprising heavy weights Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma, will take on Uttar Pradesh in their Ranji Trophy opener here Friday.
The Uttar Pradesh team is also not bereft of heavyweights. Suresh Raina, who led India A to a draw against England XI, is in the captain's role while the presence of Praveen Kumar, veteran Mohammed Kaif and young fast bowler Sudip Tyagi adds the much needed firepower to the team.
Sehwag will be leading the Delhi side and Gambhir will be his deputy. None of the two along with Kohli featured in any of the Ranji matches last season.
Sehwag's last Ranji appearance was in 2002-03, Gambhir has played just one match since leading the team to their last title in January 2008 while Kohli's last appearance was in December 2010. Ishant, however, played his last match 11 months ago.
Ahead of the four-match Test series against England, the match provides the much needed opportunity for the India players to get their act right.
While there is pressure on Sehwag and Gambhir to prove that they are still the best opening pair in Tests for India, Raina will be trying to impress the selectors for the No.6 spot in the team. Raina is facing stiff competition from Yuvraj Singh, who seems to be leading in the battle.
Sehwag is also going through a poor run of form. His last Test century came in November 2010 and his last outside the subcontinent came four years ago in January 2008. Gambhir has also gone without a century in 40 innings, the last coming in January 2010 against Bangladesh.
The only player, who can breathe easy is Kohli. The young batsmen is having a good run of form and will again play a key role in the Delhi batting.
Ishant, who underwent an ankle surgery earlier this year, will also try to book a ticket in the Test team. He was selected in the squad for the home Test series against New Zealand in August but didn't get a chance in the XI.
The Delhi team seems a tall order for Uttar Pradesh. But the hosts have enough firepower in their squad. A fit again Praveen Kumar will be looking to send out a strong message after he was dropped from the Irani Trophy squad for the Rest of India.
Uttar Pradesh: Suresh Raina (capt), Eklavya Dwivedi, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Arish Alam, Amir Khan (wk), Amit Singh, Piyush Chawla, Mukul Dagar, Mohammad Kaif, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Ali Murtaza, Parvinder Singh, Tanmay Srivastava, Sudeep Tyagi.
Delhi: Virender Sehwag (capt), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Mithun Manhas, Unmukt Chand, Puneet Bisht (wk), Sumit Narwal, Vikas Mishra, Ashish Nehra, Ishant Sharma, Parwinder Awana, Pradeep Sangwan, Yogesh Nagar, Milind Kumar, Manoj Chauhan, Manan Sharma.