The five-day Irani Cup match between Mumbai and the Rest of India, commencing at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on Wednesday, offers a good chance for some India rejects to press for recalls and other aspirants to showcase their talent in front of the national selectors.
Rest of India, led by one-day discard Virender Sehwag, has a good all-round team on paper and the list includes Harbhajan Singh and S Sreesanth - both eager for India call-ups after being ejected out of the team on basis of form or fitness or both.
The rest outfit also contains openers Shikhar Dhawan and Murali Vijay either of who can open with Sehwag and push for berths in the Test team to take on Australia later this month.
Vijay was the third opener in the squad during the Test series against England, which India lost 2-1, but did not get a single chance in the series while Dhawan could also push himself into the reckoning with a solid display as the replacement for under-performing Delhi team mate Gautam Gambhir.
Sehwag, a certainty for the opening Test at Chennai from February 22, would also be eager to get among the runs against a good Mumbai attack spearheaded by Dhawal Kulkarni after being cold-shouldered for the one-day series against England.
Mumbai would be led by Abhishek Nayar, a top pick in last Sunday's IPL auction by Pune Warriors, in the absence of the injured Ajit Agarkar.
There is the consistent domestic performer Wasim Jaffer also in the mix of openers though the 34-year-old campaigner last played for India in a Test at Kanpur five years ago against South Africa.
There are also middle order aspirants from both sides, with Mumbai opener Ajinkya Rahane too in the lot after being chosen by the selectors as a middle order batsman in the team which played against England in the four-Test rubber.
The others include Suresh Raina and Manoj Tiwary, from the Rest ranks, and Rohit Sharma from Mumbai.
Senior batsman Sachin Tendulkar, who figured in Mumbai's Ranji Trophy triumph, would get another chance to get into the groove for the Australia series after being run out cheaply in the final against Saurashtra.
Two bowlers whose performance will be keenly watched are Harbhajan and Sreesanth. Both feisty cricketers would be extra keen to push their claims for an India Test slot.
Harbhajan has not really done anything remarkable after being picked, after a long gap, for the first two Tests against England and then discarded afterwards.
But his rival for the off-spinner's spot in the Indian squad, R Ashwin, seems to have lost his edge and the selectors would be keen to watch how the seasoned Harbhajan performs against the strong Mumbai batting line up.
Sreesanth has been out of cricket action with injuries for a long time and this will be the perfect opportunity for the Kerala pacer to make a comeback into the Test team. Also with veteran pacer Zaheer Khan struggling with his fitness, a good showing from Sreesanth in the match will secure his place for the four-match Australia Test series.
There are also some other young pace hopefuls from both teams - Kulkarni from Mumbai and Shami Ahmed and Ishwar Pandey from Rest of India - trying to catch the selectors' nod.
This would be the second Irani Cup tie to be held this season, done to accommodate the change of tournament schedule recommended by the BCCI's technical committee.
The Sourav Ganguly-headed panel had suggested that the annual tournament be held after the conclusion of the Ranji Trophy instead of at the beginning of the season.
Last year's Ranji Trophy winners Rajasthan had lost by an innings to the Rest of India at Bangalore at the beginning of the season in September 2012.
Mumbai: Abhishek Nayar (captain), Sachin Tendulkar, Wasim Jaffer, Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav, Dhaval Kulkarni, Kaustubh Pawar, Hiken Shah, Aditya Tare, Ankit Chavan, Javed Khan, Shardul Thakur and Vishal Dabholkar.
Rest of India: Virender Sehwag (captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Murali Vijay, Manoj Tiwary, Suresh Raina, Wriddhiman Saha, Harbhajan Singh, S Sreesanth, Pragyan Ojha, Ishwar Pandey, Abhimanyu Mithun, Ambati Rayudu, Mohammed Shami and Jalaj Saxena.
Umpires: Shavir Tarapore and Subroto Das
Third umpire: Ravi Belur
Match Referee: Sunil Chaturvedi.
Photograph: Harish Kotian/Rediff.com