Lahli, Oct 15: Cheteshwar Pujara would like to continue his good form during a short English county stint as he leads a formidable West Zone side against a gutsy East Zone today in the quarter-final of the Duleep Trophy, which incidentally, will be India's domestic season-opener.
Pujara, who scored a century and a 90 in his last two of his three games for Derbyshire, will be keen to get some solid match-practice ahead of three-Test series against the West Indies.
With Parthiv Patel, Vijay Zol, Suryakumar Yadav and the mercurial Yusuf Pathan for company, the West batting bears a formidable look as the East Zone bowling will be solely dependant on Ashoke Dinda, with some support expected from Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Odisha's Basant Mohanty and slow left-arm bowler Shahbaz Nadeem of Jharkhand.
East's batting is comparatively stronger led by India A skipper Manoj Tiwary, Jharkhand's Saurab Tiwary and the seasoned Shukla to follow.
Lanky 22-year-old Bengal left-hander Sudeep Chatterjee, who impressed one and all with his temperament last season might get his debut game in zonal cricket.
While the track at Bansi Lal Stadium is known to aid seamers, the mid-October scheduling of a first-class match means that one might not expect the kind of freshness that's there on offer during the cooler months of December and January.
It's still hot in the northern part of India and Rohtak is no different. So one can expect a challenge for the East bowlers, who will have their task cut against Pujara and Parthiv Patel, who have the knack of scoring big hundreds and double hundreds.
For the East, it will be skipper Manoj, on whom bulk of the responsibility will be there along with Wriddhiman Saha, who is again likely to travel to Australia as a reserve wicketkeeper during Test matches.
Manoj's form has been a bit up and down in the recent times with a few good knocks for India A in Australia but a big hundred has eluded him since he came back to competitive cricket from a knee-surgery.
A good knock will keep him in the selectors' radar as far as the slot for a reserve batsman in the Indian ODI squad is concerned since the batting line-up in the longer version is jam-packed.
He will face a decent if not threatening seam attack in Mumbai new-ball duo of Shardul Thakur and Dhawal Kulkarni, who will be assisted by Pathan and left-arm spinner Akshay Darekar, who might get a look in with Akshar Patel being off for national duty.
East Zone: Manoj Tiwary (captain), Natraj Behera, Basant Mohanty, Govinda Podder, Rameez Nemat, Saurabh Tiwary, Shahbaz Nadeem, Samar Quadri, Sudip Chatterjee, Wriddhiman Saha (wicketkeeper), Laxmi Shukla, Ashok Dinda, Gokul Sharma, Abu Nechim, Rana Dutta
West Zone: Cheteshwar Pujara (captain), Parthiv Patel (wicketkeeper), Vijay Zol, Harshad Khadiwale, Saurabh Wakaskar, Suryakumar Yadav, Ankeet Bawne, Yusuf Pathan, Aditya Tare (wicketkeeper), Akshay Darekar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Shardul Thakur, Jasprit Bumrah, Shrikant Mundhe.