After two drawn first-class matches, India A and New Zealand A are all set to lock horns in a series of three one-dayers, the first of which will be played at the ACA-VDCA Stadium on Sunday (September 8).
With the national selectors likely to keep a close eye on the matches - the selection committee meeting ahead of the limited-overs series against West Indies A is slated for Tuesday - performance will most certainly be the buzzword in the Indian camp.
Unmukt Chand, who takes over as captain from Abhishek Nayar, has another opportunity to make amends after disappointing returns in the two first-class outings. In the absence of some of the more experienced players such as Nayar, the inclusion of Robin Uthappa will bolster the team's batting. Uthappa and Rahul Sharma, the legspinner, are the only two players in the squad to have played for the national team.
Also part of the new-look side are young batsmen Sanju Samson, Sachin Baby, Ashok Menaria and Mandeep Singh. Only four players - Chand, Shrikant Wagh, Jalaj Saxena and Dhawal Kulkarni - have been retained from the side that played the first-class games.
Aditya Tare, who scored 842 runs in 11 matches in Mumbai's 2012-13 Ranji Trophy triumph, and Samson are the two specialist wicketkeepers. Although Sanjay Bangar, the coach, didn't confirm who would keep wickets, he said both players were qualified to play as specialist batsmen.
Sandeep Sharma, the Punjab pacer, and Basant Mohanty, the Odisha pacer, are the new faces in the bowling attack that will be spearheaded by Kulkarni, the Mumbai seamer, with Rahul Sharma and Saxena donning the spin mantle.
For the New Zealanders, the series will be an opportunity to get further acquainted with subcontinental conditions, given five players from the squad have been chosen for the Test tour of Bangladesh in October.
For starters, Andrew Ellis, the Canterbury allrounder, takes over as captain from Tom Latham. Ellis, who arrived late due to a visa issue, said both sides are equally matched. Neil Broom, Derek de Boorder and James Neesham, who represent Otago Volts in the Champions League Twenty20 qualifiers starting September 17, have been replaced by Colin Munro, Ellis and Scott Kuggeleijn.
With two players - Ish Sodhi and Corey Anderson - being handed maiden call-ups for the Bangladesh series, Grant Bradburn, the coach, hoped the move would motivate the rest of the team to stand up and be counted.
Given the quality of the New Zealand A attack, comprising Test bowlers Doug Bracewell and Mark Gillespie, the match is likely to be a contest between India A's batting and New Zealand A's bowling.
The New Zealanders admitted to knowing very little about their opponents in the build-up to the first-class matches. While that is unlikely to change, given India A bears a completely different look with as many as ten new players coming in, their knowledge of the conditions after a fortnight's stay in Visakhapatnam should come in handy in what is likely to be a high-scoring series.
India A: Unmukt Chand (capt), Robin Uthappa, Aditya Tare (wk), Kedhar Jadhav, Mandeep Singh, Ashok Menaria, Sanju Samson (wk), Sachin Baby, Dhawal Kulkarni, Basant Mohanty, Sandeep Sharma, Shrikant Wagh, Rahul Sharma and Jalaj Saxena.
New Zealand A: Andrew Ellis (capt), Tom Latham, Luke Ronchi (wk), Matt Henry, Anton Devcich, Colin Munro, Scott Kuggeleijn, Corey Anderson, Carl Cachopa, Todd Astle, Mark Gillespie, Ish Sodhi, Doug Bracewell, Daryl Mitchell, Adam Milne.