A keen battle awaits the fans when newly crowned Ranji Trophy champions Gujarat clash with the Rest of India in the five-day Irani Cup match, to be played at the Brabourne Stadium here from Friday.
The match, with five more home Test matches coming up, will serve as another platform for the fringe and performing players from both the teams to catch the selectors' attention.
There may not be many vacancies currently in the high-flying Indian Test team, but a top drawer show in an important match like the Irani will certainly go a long way in enhancing the particular player's chances in the near future.
After leading Gujarat to their maiden Ranji Trophy title with the bat and his glovework, Parthiv Patel has a great chance to score brownie points against Wridhiman Saha of the Rest whom he had replaced, when the latter got injured, in the Indian Test team against England.
Parthiv did not see it as a mini-battle between himself and the Bengal stumper. "It's a game between Gujarat and the Rest and not between two players. We all know he's very talented, but it's a game between two teams not individual players," Parthiv said on Thursday.
The game also offers a fine springboard for players like Abhinav Mukund, who guided Tamil Nadu into the Ranji Trophy semi-finals, to show his worth as an opener along with Mumbai's Akhil Herwadkar and Gujarat opener Priyank Panchal, who has scored over 1,300 runs in 10 games this first class season, embellished with a triple and a double hundred.
The Rest, captained by prolific one-down Test batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, appear strong on paper with the presence of Karun Nair, who scored a triple hundred for a winning cause against England in the fifth and final Test at Chennai, shoring up the middle order with the experienced Manoj Tiwary and Saha.
The Rest have included 22-year-old Hyderabad pace bowler Mohd Siraj in the team in place of Mumbai's Shardul Thakur, who has complained of ankle pain and dropped out.
Senior pacer Pankaj Singh, Siddharth Kaul, Siraj and K Vignesh are the new ball options while chinaman exponent Kuldeep Yadav and left arm orthodox slow Shahbaz Nadeem are spin options.
Parthiv saw the game as a good platform for his team's players to show their worth again after their glorious Ranji season. "They are a strong side. It's a great opportunity for a lot of our young players. I have played for Rest (in Irani games), but for the first time will be playing for Gujarat which is something big for all of us. The team has made two changes, said the Gujarat skipper.
"We have dropped Bhargav Merai and brought in Mohit Thadani while Mehul Patel met with an accident and fractured his leg. We had to bring in Het Patel who was in the Junior Asia Cup junior team. We have been getting a lot of runs this season. That's something we have banked on. Even in the Ranji Trophy final (against Mumbai), we backed ourselves on the fifth day, because we knew we had the batting to do it," the Gujarat stumper said.
"It's an exciting game. We have so many young players who want to prove themselves. We have five Test matches coming up and young players want to make their mark. It's a very good opportunity for them," said Rest skipper Pujara.
"Gujarat have won the Ranji Trophy. They have played very good cricket. The way they played in the final, they deserved to win. I was following it," he added.