India's premier domestic competition has reverted to the Elite-Plate format with 10 teams — Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Sikkim and Goa including first-timer Chandigarh — comprising the Plate group while the remaining 28 have been divided into three Elite groups A, B and C.

These sides may not boast of a plethora of international players in their squads and might lack the rich cricketing legacies of Karnataka, Mumbai and Gujarat, but could spring a surprise or two.

One needs to look no further than Team Rajasthan which, in 2011, hurtled to the top and clinched the Ranji honours. The local talent in Deepak Chahar, Ashok Menaria and Pankaj Singh had turned the tide in favour of the 'underdog'.

Chahar, today, is a regular in India's limited-overs squad and could even feature in the World T20 in Australia next year.

While the big teams have quality and depth, they are often hamstrung by the unavailability of their 'stars' , who are either on National duty or called upon midway through the tournament.

Individually, the players will look to impress the National selectors as well as the IPL scouts who are known to frequent far-flung grounds in search of talent.

There's plenty to look forward to when the 86th season of the Ranji Trophy kickstarts on Monday.

Players to watch out for:


Arun Karthik is an experienced top-order batsman and a handy wicketkeeper.

  Arun Karthik (Puducherry):  The Tamil Nadu-based cricketer has 4021 runs from 74 first-class matches at an average of 36.22. A right-handed top-order batsman, Karthik began his first-class career with 149 on debut against Karnataka in 2008-09.

Vinay Kumar (Puducherry):  Veteran pace bowler R. Vinay Kumar bid adieu to Karnataka cricket after 15 long years and moved to Puducherry as a player and mentor. Vinay, who made his first-class debut for Karnataka in 2004, played 106 Ranji Trophy games for the State side, behind only Sunil Joshi (117).  He has 459 wickets from 130 first-class matches.


Stuart Binny has joined Nagaland as a professional player this year.

  Stuart Binny (Nagaland):  Stuart Binny, Vinay Kumar's one-time teammate in Karnataka, moved to Nagaland. Binny has 4332 runs from 88 first-class matches at an average of 33.58. Binny had an impressive domestic season in 2013-14, scoring 443 runs at 43.22 and taking 14 wickets at 32.64, playing an important role in Karnataka's run to the Ranji Trophy title.

Bipul Sharma (Chandigarh):  Sharma is a utility player and Chandigarh can gain from the all-rounder's IPL experience (Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab) to help tackle the long format.