After a four-year break, the Deodhar Trophy - last held in 2019-20- returns to the Indian cricketing calendar, with the tournament set to kick off on Monday here at the Cricket Association of Pondicherry grounds.
Like the Duleep Trophy, the one-day tournament reverts to a zonal format, with the six teams playing each other once in a round-robin format on alternate days starting Monday before the top two fight for the title on August 3.
At a time when one-day cricket is fighting for relevance, this edition of the Deodhar Trophy might have a small purpose considering it is a World Cup year.
Though it is understood that the selectors have shortlisted 20 players for the prestigious event, the tournament offers players in the fringes below to show what they can do and make a last-minute impression in case a spot is available closer to the event.
With the Vijay Hazare Trophy set to be held only after the World Cup, the next two weeks could become crucial for players and the selectors to finalise backup options.
Some of the players to watch out for include the likes of pacer Shivam Mavi, all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer, Rinku Singh, and Washington Sundar, who was part of the one-day set-up as recently as the three-match series against Australia earlier this year.
“If a player can have an extraordinary tournament, you never know, an opportunity to play in the World Cup is looming ahead or even long-term get into the one-day squad,” said Central Zone skipper Venkatesh.
As for the tournament, most teams are evenly matched with players who have done well in last year’s Vijay Hazare tournament and the IPL, finding a place in their respective zonal squads.
The Mayank Agarwal-led South Zone side - which won the Duleep Trophy last week - and West Zone will start the tournament as favourites with some pedigreed players in their line-up.
However, the teams had only one day of proper practice after persistent drizzle on Sunday forced players to the indoor nets, where the batters took some throwdowns, and a few spinners rolled their arms over.
Monday’s matches: West Zone vs North East Zone, CAP Ground 2 (9 a.m.); East Zone vs Central Zone, CAP Ground 3 (9 a.m.); *North Zone vs South Zone (1.30 p.m.), Siechem Stadium.
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