Vijay Hazare Trophy: Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Gujarat start strong favourites

While Tamil Nadu will miss the services of Dinesh Karthik, who is away on national duty in UAE, Murali Vijay is likely to join after his county stint with Essex.

Abhinav Mukund at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.   -  V. Ganesan

Tamil Nadu, Bengal and Gujarat start strong favourites as the Elite Group 'C' matches of the Vijay Hazare Trophy commences at four locations in Chennai — M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Guru Nanak College Ground, Murugappa Grounds and the SSN College Ground — from Wednesday.

A total of 10 teams will play 45 matches in the city from September 19 to October 11. The top two teams will qualify for the quarterfinal stage.

Tamil Nadu opens its campaign against Gujarat on September 20. The team boasts of an experienced batting line-up with Vijay Shankar leading the forces.

The unit looks formidable with Abhinav Mukund, Baba Aparajith — who is back after nursing a calf injury — Baba Indrajith, Kaushik Gandhi, N. Jagadeesam and the skipper himself.

While Tamil Nadu will miss the services of Dinesh Karthik, who is away on national duty in UAE, Murali Vijay is likely to join after his county stint with Essex.

India off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin does not feature in the scheme of things, and neither does Washington Sundar.

T. Natarajan will spearhead the bowling attack with K. Vignesh, M. Mohammed, spinners C.V. Arun, R. Sai Kishore and Rahil S. Shah for assistance.

Manoj Tiwari's Bengal is a force to reckon with in the tournament. The unit looks well-oiled with Shreevats Goswami, Anustup Majumdar, Abhimanyu Easwaran, Abhishek Raman, Writtick Chatterjee and the skipper forming a good batting unit.

Ashok Dinda, Shahbaz Ahmed and Ishan Porel will spearhead the bowling duties. The Bengal unit will be keen to shrug off the tag of an underperforming unit off its back.

Gujarat will be a team to watch out for. The Ranji Trophy champion in 2017, the team will be led by Parthiv Patel.

With Priyank Panchal, Manpreet Juneja, Chirag Gandhi and Piyush Chawla in its ranks, Gujarat looks to be a team capable of pulling an upset on its day.

All eyes will be on former India fast bowler Irfan Pathan as he dons a new cap of a player cum mentor for Jammu and Kashmir. The team is led by Parvez Rasool, who has played one ODI and a lone T20I for India.

Deepak Chahar, who has played in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Chennai Super Kings, will ply his trade for Rajasthan along with Aniket Choudhary, who isn't alien to the conditions in Chennai thanks to his stint with the MRF Pace Foundation.

Gujarat will commence the Group C proceedings when it meets Assam on Wednesday. Haryana vs Jharkhand and Services vs Tripura are the other matches on the opening day.

Rajasthan, Assam, Tripura, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Services complete the Elite Group C along with the three favourites.

Wednesday's Matches

Assam vs Gujarat, Round 1, Elite Group C, TI Cycles Ground, Murugappa, Chennai

Haryana vs Jharkhand, Round 1, Elite Group C, Guru Nanak College Ground, Chennai

Services vs Tripura, Round 1, Elite Group C, MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai

All Matches start at 09:00 AM