Veterans Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh and Ashish Nehra would like to get some quality match time before the Twenty20 series in Australia, as the National Twenty20 Championship for Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy kicks off on Saturday, across four different cities. (Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh, Ishant Sharma Left Teamless Ahead of IPL 9)
The tournament will serve dual purpose for cricketers vying for top honours. For India internationals like comeback men Yuvraj and Nehra, along with fringe players, it will be a testing ground where they can stake claim for a berth in the team for ICC World Twenty20 in March. (India vs Australia: Yuvraj Singh, Ravindra Jadeja Stage Comeback for Limited-Overs Series)
For those plying their trade in domestic cricket, Mushtaq Ali T20 trophy will give a platform to impress various franchises with their skills before the big Indian Premier League auction in February.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India, in a positive step, has decided to hold Mushtaq Ali Trophy keeping the World Twenty20 in mind. The tournament over years had lost significance for being conducted hastily just before Indian Premier League. With auctions over, the domestic talents did not get an opportunity to land IPL contracts.
Punjab skipper Harbhajan and Yuvraj will be fighting it out against Rajasthan at Kochi while Nehra, who made a comeback into the Indian team after four and half years, will be getting himself battle ready with Delhi taking on Railways.
After being selected in the Indian Twenty20 team, he would certainly like some match simulation before boarding the flight to Australia.
For Yuvraj and Nehra, the additional incentive would be to impress the franchise owners as they are both without any IPL team. (Ashish Nehra Proves Age is Just a Number)
Another person who must be wanting to prove a point would be Suresh Raina, who got an ODI snub after a long time. Raina's Uttar Pradesh will take on Maharashtra at Cuttack.
It will be after 19 long years that a Bengal team would be without the talismanic all-rounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla, who announced his retirement from competitive cricket, as they take on Hyderabad in Nagpur.
Skipper Manoj Tiwary and senior pacer Ashok Dinda, who got IPL snubs from Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore respectively, will get a chance to keep the franchises interested.
Itinerary In Nagpur: (Group A) Bengal v Hyderabad; Gujarat v Himachal Pradesh; Haryana v Tamil Nadu; In Kochi (Group B): Rajasthan v Punjab; Kerala v Jammu & Kashmir; Saurashtra v Tripura; In Vadodara (Group C): Andhra v Madhya Pradesh; Assam v Baroda; Delhi v Railways; In Cuttack (Group D): Mumbai v Odisha; Karnataka v Services; Maharashtra v Uttar Pradesh.