All-rounder Hardik Pandya will like to make a case for himself for Test match selection as he leads a talented bunch of India ‘A’ players against Australia in a three-day warm-up game starting on Friday at Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.
The Test series begins in Pune on February 23.
Pandya, who has been dubbed as a limited overs expert, has improved as a seamer and a good show against the visitors may force skipper Virat Kohli and coach Anil Kumble to keep him in their plans when they sit around for a discussion on playing during first two Test matches.
Against a quality side like Australia, the performers at the domestic level will get a chance to test themselves against the likes of Josh Hazlewood or Mitchell Starc if Steve Smith and Darren Lehmann decide to give them a few overs.
Opener Priyank Panchal of Gujarat, who has had a phenomenal season, backed it up with a century against Bangladesh in the previous warm-up game, will also like to remain in selector's radar for the slot of reserve opener.
This is the only practice game for the visitors and they would like to make full use of it -- batsmen getting some good batting practice and bowlers loosening up with some overs.
The home team has some other exciting young players such as the hard-hitting ex-India U-19 World Cup batsmen Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan.
Jharkhand's Kishan, who led the country in the Junior World Cup last year in Bangladesh, will keep wickets.
Then there are others like Mumbai's highly rated batsman Shreyas Iyer and his teammate Akhil Herwadkar, who is expected to open the innings with the in-form Panchal.
Iyer had scored over 1300 runs at one-down while guiding Mumbai to their 41st Ranji title last season but has had a dip in form this season, while Panchal, with a plus 1300 aggregate, led Gujarat to their maiden national crown this season.
In the middle-order there's Maharashtra's 24-year-old Ankit Bawne, an experienced campaigner.
Apart from Kuldeep Yadav, the home team has the wily left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem from Jharkhand who is capable of testing and teasing the rival batsmen along with Karnataka’s Krishnappa Gowtham, who bowls off-spin.
These three spinners, especially the 27-year-old Nadeem who has over 300 first class wickets to his credit, will give Australia a real taste of what lies ahead in the Test rubber.
In medium pace bowling, the home side will have two other young bowlers, Haryana-born Navdeep Saini of Delhi and Hyderabad's Mohammed Siraj, who worked up good pace for Rest of India against Gujarat in the Irani Cup tie at this venue, to choose from to bowl alongside Bengal's experienced Ashok Dinda and Baroda man Pandya himself.
Australia will look forward to the game as the pitch is known to offer good bounce for the bowlers and this is the only match where they will confront spin bowling in match conditions before the Test series opener next week.
The visitors also have to decide whether to field the Test XI or rest the bowlers some more.
"(We are) looking forward to the challenge of going out and getting our side as best prepared for the Test match. Whether we play the Test XI or not, we'll take a call," Australia coach Darren Lehmann said.
"We will look at how the fast bowlers have caught up from Dubai(where the team had trained for a few days before reaching here) and we will work out what we do there. But otherwise I'm pretty happy with where everyone's at," he further said in the run-up to the match.
Australia: Steve Smith (Capt), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Jackson Bird, Peter Handscomb, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Stephen O'Keefe, Matthew Renshaw, Mitchell Starc, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade
India A: Hardik Pandya (Captain), Akhil Herwadkar, Priyank Kirit Panchal, Shreyas Iyer, Ankit Bawne, Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan (WK), Shahbaz Nadeem, Krishnappa Gowtham, Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Ashok Dinda, Mohammed Siraj, Rahul Singh, Baba Indrajith.