The absence of big names from both the teams notwithstanding, West Zone will enjoy a slight edge over North in the four-day quarter-final of the Duleep Trophy cricket tournament, in Chennai, on Saturday.
North Zone's initial 15-member squad comprised stars in the form of Virender Sehwag [ Images ], who was named the captain, Gautam Gambhir [ Images ], Virat Kohli [ Images ], Yuvraj Singh [ Images ] and Harbhajan Singh [ Images ]. But all of them will miss the game for varied reasons.
While Sehwag is out with an ankle injury, Kohli and Yuvraj have opted to rest, and Gambhir and Harbhajan are not available as they are leaving for South Africa [ Images ] to play in the Champions League [ Images ] Twenty20 [ Images ].
Going by the history of the tournament, North and West Zone are the most successful teams with 17 triumphs each, one shared by North and three by the West.
In the absence of big guns, North's batting will revolve around skipper Shikhar Dhawan [ Images ]. But with the likes of Ishant Sharma [ Images ], Parwinder Awana, Harshal Patel and Vikas Mishra up its rank, North boasts of a formidable bowling attack.
On the other hand, West, captained by Cheteshwar Pujara [ Images ], is better served in the batting department and also has a decent bowling attack.
West will rely on Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane [ Images ] (vice-captain), Kaustubh Pawar (Mumbai [ Images ]), Bhushan Chavan (Saurashtra), Ankit Bawne (Maharashtra [ Images ]) and wicket-keeper Smit Patel to deliver the goods in the batting department.
Parthiv Patel's [ Images ] inclusion in the team as the 16th member should further boost West's chances.
West Zone coach Sulakshan Kulkarni is confident of his wards coming up with a good showing.
"We have a good team and our players are in good nick. Most of the players have figured in the Salve Trophy in Rajkot, so I have high hopes from them," he said.
The match will be played on the newly-laid strip at the M Chinnaswamy stadium and Kulkarni said the toss will play a crucial role.
"Usually the original pitch in Chepauk used to be bouncy, but it will be interesting to see how this new wicket behaves in the next four days. Conditions are going to be the same for both the teams and it does not matter," he said.
North skipper Shikhar Dhawan said both the teams are evenly poised despite the absence of five stalwarts in his side.
"It is a game of 50-50 since the outcome of the match will be decided on the first innings lead in case of a draw. We are not bothered about the wicket as we are expected to win matches on adverse conditions," Dhawan said.
"We have good bowlers in our rank. Vikas Mishra and Harshal Patel have played in Rajkot and they are talented.
West Zone: Cheteshwar Pujara (capt, Saurashtra), Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain, Mumbai), Kaustubh Pawar (Mumbai), Bhushan Chavan (Saurashtra), Ankit Bawne (Maharashtra), Abhishek Nayar [ Images ] (Mumbai); Kedar Jadhav (Maharashtra), Smit Patel (wicketkeeper, Gujarat), Harmeet Singh (Mumbai), Samad Fallah (Maharashtra), Murtuza Vohra (Baroda), Ishwar Choudhari (Gujarat); Kshemal Waingankar (Mumbai), Kamlesh Makwana (Saurashtra), Ankit Chavan (Mumbai), Parthiv Patel (Gujarat).
North Zone: Shikhar Dhawan (capt, Delhi [ Images ]), Paras Dogra (Himachal Pradesh [ Images ]), Rajat Bhatia (Delhi), Mayank Sidana (Punjab [ Images ]), Nitin Saini (wicketkeeper, Haryana), Ishant Sharma (Delhi), Parwinder Awana (Delhi), Harshal Patel (Haryana), Vikas Mishra (Delhi), Rishi Dhawan (Himachal Pradesh), Ian Dev Singh (Jammu & Kashmir [ Images ]), Rahul Dewan (Haryana), Uday Kaul (Himachal Pradesh), Vipul Sharma (Punjab), Gurvinder Singh (Himachal Pradesh).