Last season's East Zone leg champions Odisha will have the opportunity to make amends for their pathetic domestic season even as the team would be morally down, while 2010-11 winners Bengal will start firm favourites to qualify for the knockout among the five teams.
Odisha had emerged East Zone toppers by virtue of their net-run rate after they finished with 12 points along with Bengal and Assam. Odisha and Bengal had finished top two by net run rate to qualify for the main round. But things look different and it appears to be an open battle among Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha and Assam, while Tripura too would look to produce upsets.
With T20 specialists in skipper Saurabh Tiwary, Ishank Jaggi and Shahbaz Nadeem, Jharkhand have a formidable line-up. Bengal will have a full strength side in the league phase with the likes of skipper Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Manoj Tiwary and Wriddhiman Saha who form the back bone of the team, while they will be missed in the knockout phase due to commitments with their respective IPL franchises.
Keeping that in mind, the selectors have brought in 36-year-old Sanjib Sanyal in the 16-member squad for the zonal leg as his inclusion will boost Bengal's all-round options. "Sanjib had done well in the previous edition too. Look, you are in the side only if you play. If you can't, you will be chucked out and won't be considered thereafter. It's simple," captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla said as they look forward to use the home advantage.
Odisha selectors have retained the core of the side this season with Biplab Samantray as the skipper and it would be their young in-form allrounder and vice captain Govind Poddar, who will be their key player.
Natraj Behera, who was out of the T20 squad last season, also made a come back to the side after hitting four consecutive centuries in the Ranji season as the 28-year-old will be their batting back bone.