Oldest and youngest, Nagaland's first, and the missing Test star
Not many Test players follow up an illustrious international career with a season of domestic cricket. VVS Laxman will, for his beloved Hyderabad. This is what domestic cricket needs: a 134-Test veteran, with no personal goal left to achieve, helping his state side do well. Ranji Trophy as a fulfilment in itself and not just a stepping stone to higher things. Usually when playing Tests, Laxman is on the phone with Hyderabad coaches, following the progress of his side helplessly; now he is going to do something about it.
Born on October 11, 1972, Sanjay Bangar is the oldest man in this year's Ranji Trophy. Shitanshu Kotak, born eight days later, is the only player providing Bangar company on the other side of 40. Sairaj Bahutule, captaining Vidarbha this year, will turn 40 on January 6.
Unmukt Chand and Harmeet Singh came back as stars from the Under-19 World Cup. Mumbai's Harmeet had a stamp of approval from Ian Chappell, and Delhi's Chand a reputation of being a big-match player. Both will be the youngsters to watch out for. Harmeet, though, hasn't had an auspicious start to the season: after eight wickets for 278 runs in Irani and Duleep matches, he is out with injury for at least one match.
Wasim Jaffer and Amol Muzumdar had been mainstays for Mumbai for ages. Now they are rivals, not only playing for different teams, but also within touching distance of each other as leading run-getters in Ranji Trophy. With Jaffer away on leave for Haj, Muzumdar is almost certain to erase the 83-run lead, but this could be a proper contest once Jaffer is back.
Muzumdar is already the most-capped player, his 123 Ranji matches tie with Rajinder Goel. Bangar, at 117, is in hot pursuit.
Laxman's first opposing captain will be Harbhajan Singh. He is stranded on 98 Tests and has watched R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha usurp him as Test spinners. In the last domestic season, Harbhajan took two wickets for 204 runs and then had an unfortunate injury a day after the team for Australia was announced. He is one of the rest now, and can do worse than emulating Laxman, who scored 1432 and 1420 runs in 1999-2000 and 2000-01 to dare the selectors to not pick him.
If he gets a game for Assam, the 26-year-old left-arm quick Hokaito Zhimomi could become the first first-class cricketer from Nagaland. Zhimomi comes from Sangtamtila village of Dimapur district. He played his junior and club cricket in Kolkata, representing Dalhousie Athletic Club. He was also a part of the extended Kolkata Knight Riders in 2009. He has now moved to Assam.
Mumbai's Akhil Herwadkar, who turned 18 on October 31, is the youngest player this year.
Every player from India's last Test XI is playing the season's first Ranji match except for two. Cheteshwar Pujara won't be playing because Saurashtra are not playing in the first round, and he will use that time to represent MCA XI against the touring English. MS Dhoni is the only one who has taken a break. He last played a first-class match for Jharkhand in 2004-05, before his Test debut.
A total of 103 first-class matches will be played in less than three months.
Big transfers and movements. Aakash Chopra, double Ranji champion with Rajasthan, has moved to Himachal Pradesh. Muzumdar has gone from Assam to Andhra. Former India player Venugopal Rao has left Andhra for Gujarat.
Ajit Agarkar for Mumbai, Harbhajan for Punjab, Laxman for Hyderabad and Shahbaz Nadeem for Jharkhand are some of the new captains to watch out for.
Railways have moved base from the storied Karnail Singh Stadium in Delhi to East Coast Railway Sports Association Stadium in Bhubaneshwar. The testing pitch, which was banned for a year after it was too testing in a match against Saurashtra last season, will be missed.
TP Sudhindra, last year's leading wicket-taker, won't play any part in this season after having been trapped in a sting operation exposing alleged corruption.
Yere Goud and Sourav Ganguly are the big retirees this year. Sunil Joshi, who didn't play a game last season, also made the formal announcement this year. Goud ended with 119 caps, and Joshi 117.
Starting November 2, watch out for the Ranji Trophy Live blog on match days
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo