Do you know India's domestic season begins on Thursday?
You probably thought October, which was as per the BCCI domestic schedule released last week. But no. The calendar was tweaked to include the Duleep Trophy after the initial decision of shelving it because of a busy international season. So, instead of the Ranji Trophy opening the season on October 6, it would be the much-maligned Duleep Trophy, still struggling for relevance despite a rejig of the format - it has moved on from a zonal tournament to three sides - India Red, Blue and Green - that will be played over the next three weeks in Lucknow and Kanpur.
Why was it brought back?
Sourav Ganguly, the head of BCCI's technical committee, intervened after the tournament was initially scrapped. In his letter to the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA), Ganguly stated he was in the dark about the omission, and that the tournament was penciled in during the committee's meeting in Kolkata last month. The CoA in turn cited "prestige" as they reinstated the tournament three days after it was originally scrapped for the season.
Why might the tournament be irrelevant?
With India's top players, many of whom would have just returned from Sri Lanka on Thursday, set to be engaged in a limited-overs series against Australia starting September 17, the objective of continuing to trial with the pink ball isn't well-served. In addition, New Zealand A's tour of India for two four-day games and four one-day games from the third week of September could further deplete the tournament, given many of the players picked for the Duleep Trophy could be in contention to feature in the A matches to be played in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam.
Won't the pink-ball experience help players?
With the BCCI still far from convinced for a pink-ball Test, a prospect they were gung-ho about last year albeit under the old regime, it's hard to understand what they would stand to gain. No home Tests or any of the away Tests India are set to play over the next 12 months will be played under lights.
What about opportunities for players to impress and get picked for India A?
It is possible that the selectors may not have an opportunity to look at all players, especially with the India A team likely to be picked in a week's time, unless they decide to wait for the completion of the second game on September 16. Therefore, the incentive for players participating in the tournament to pitch for an India A spot is not a likely prospect.
What is worth looking out for?
The selectors have moved on from seniors like Yuvraj Singh, part of the limited-overs squad as recently as the tour of the West Indies in June, and Gautam Gambhir, who was part of India's Test plans in 2016-17, without saying so. Suresh Raina, however, is in the mix despite being dropped since the T20s against England earlier this year. Amid reports of failing fitness tests prior to the Sri Lanka series, he has another opportunity to rejuvenate his international career.
For others like Priyank Panchal, who was picked for the India A tour of South Africa but couldn't travel because of dengue, this is an opportunity to strengthen his claim to be the next in line among reserve openers. Panchal, Ranji Trophy's highest run-scorer in 2016-17, could tussle with Abhinav Mukund, who did his credentials no harm during the Test tour of Sri Lanka, for a spot if it comes down to the selectors looking for options outside of the three established openers in KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan and M Vijay.
This tournament will also mark a return for Vijay, who missed the Test series in Sri Lanka with a wrist injury. While he's taken small steps towards a comeback by participating in the Tamil Nadu Premier League, this will be his first proper workout in day's cricket. Therefore, this is at best, an opportunity for a group of individuals to achieve individual objectives with little to gain as outfits.