Mumbai, Jan 14: Baroda's hard-hitting all-rounder Hardik Pandya would be among those eager to grab the attention of selectors when the Syed Mushtaq Ali Super League, featuring eight qualifiers from the preliminaries, commences tomorrow (January 15).
Pandya, who has already earned a spot in the Indian team to take on Australia later this month in a series of T20 Internationals, smashed 34 runs in an over from Delhi seamer Akash Sudan on his way to a whirlwind 81 off 51 balls with six sixes and five fours in the preliminary round tie at the Reliance Stadium in Baroda. (Pandya smashes 5 sixes in 1 over)
Though Delhi won the game, Baroda - who had won the title twice in the last four editions - too qualified for the Super Eights and have been placed in Group A along with hosts Mumbai, Kerala and Vidarbha.
And 22-year-old Pandya, who grabbed eyeballs playing for Mumbai Indians in last year's IPL, has enhanced his reputation and he would be keen to keep up his impressive performance in front of the selectors during the first part of the year when T20 games are the main flavour.
This tournament has gained added importance, coming ahead of the India-Australia T20 series Down Under to be followed by the Asia Cup T20 competition in Bangladesh and the World T20 Championship to be hosted by India in March-April.
Outstanding displays in this tournament could gain the performers tickets to the Big League in T20. Delhi, led by Gautam Ghambir, have been placed in Group B along with defending champions Gujarat, who had won the crown in 2012-13 too, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.
All Group A games are to be played at the Wankhede Stadium, which means hosts and 40-time Ranji champions Mumbai - gunning for their first T20 title like Delhi - will be playing in their home ground.
All Group B matches are scheduled at the MCA's Sharad Pawar Academy ground at the Bandra-Kurla Complex.
The league stage of the competition, with two matches scheduled per day at each venue at 9 AM and 1 PM respectively, would be gone through tomorrow, on January 16 and 18. The winners of the two groups would meet under lights on January 20 from 6:30 PM at the Wankhede Stadium.
Vidarbha would take on Baroda in the opening Group A game tomorrow at the Wankhede Stadium, while on the same day Gujarat would clash with Delhi in the Group B opener at the BKC ground.
Tomorrow's second Group A match would pit Kerala, with some exciting players like Sanju Samson in their ranks, against Mumbai who have some top stroke-makers in Shreyas Iyer, skipper Aditya Tare and Suryakumar Yadav. The second Group B game at the BKC ground will see Jharkhand taking on a strong Uttar Pradesh.
The tournament schedule
Group A (Wankhede Stadium): Jan 15: Vidarbha v Baroda (9 AM); Kerala v Mumbai (1:00 PM) Jan 16: Kerala v Baroda (9:00 AM); Vidarbha v Mumbai (1:00 PM). Jan 18: Vidarbha v Kerala (9:00 AM); Baroda v Mumbai (1.00 PM).
Group B (BKC ground): Jan 15: Gujarat v Delhi (9:00 AM); Jharkhand v UPCA (1:00 PM). Jan 16: Jharkhand v Delhi (9:00 AM); Gujarat v UPCA (1:00 PM). Jan 18: Gujarat v Jharkhand (9:00 AM); Delhi v UPCA (1:00 PM).
Jan 20: Final: Group A winners v Group B winners, Wankhede Stadium (6:30 PM).