The Indian team, across all formats, has a strong bench. For every spot in India's XI, there are at least two back-ups who can replace those in the line-up, and that bodes well for the side. But what about the competition for those spots? We take a look at the six domestic cricketers, whose Ranji Trophy performances this season could possibly decide the paths of their international career over the next twelve months
The Tamil Nadu opener averaged 65.30 in the Ranji Trophy last year and was his team's highest run-scorer. Lurking as the fourth-choice opener since he made his international debut in 2011, Abhinav replaced the injured KL Rahul for the first Test of the Sri Lanka series in July this year. He walked in with an average of just 18.91 from his previous six Tests, but a career-best of 81 in the second innings in Galle might have done just enough to keep Abhinav in the selectors' radar during the upcoming season.
Despite being in good touch during last year's Ranji, where he scored four centuries and three fifties in ten games, Abhinav will aim to better his record from last season when he finished as the ninth-highest run-getter. He would also hope that he gets a longer run if and when he gets the next Test call-up.
The selectors would want: Consistency and fitness.
His 303* made him only the second Indian to record a triple-century after Virender Sehwag. However, Nair's next-highest Test score is 26. Since being dropped after the Dharamsala Test against Australia this March, following a string of poor scores, Nair led India A's four-day teams for the tour of South Africa and in the home series against New Zealand A.
In eight first-class innings for the 'A' team, Nair scored only one half-century and in the four 50-over games, he made only 95 runs. Nair possesses both technique and temperament, but the pressure of expectations after the triple-hundred seems to have affected him. With mentors like Rahul Dravid around him, he will know the path back is about converting starts, showing the hunger, focus and determination. There is no other remedy.
The selectors would want: Nair to return to scoring big.
Iyer is competing for the same slot as Nair, but the numbers are in his favour. The 22-year old from Mumbai is in the best form among batsmen fighting for a middle-order slot. Iyer has scores of 82, 108 and 65 in his last three first-class innings, and had made an unbeaten 202 against Australia in the tour match, for India A, earlier this year. He also showed promise on the India A tour, where he scored an unbeaten 140 against South Africa A in the final of the one-day tri-series. An aggressive batsman, Iyer is working hard at learning the right skills from Dravid as well as his personal coach Praveen Amre.
The selectors would want: For him to stay consistent in the Ranji season and make use of the India A opportunities.
Parthiv Patel's played a big role in Gujarat's Ranji Trophy win last year. Runs at the top, followed up by sharp wicketkeeping, saw Parthiv get a Test call-up during England's tour last year as a makeshift opener and a replacement for Saha. He repaid the selectors' faith with two important fifties in three Tests.
Recently, Parthiv was called as a replacement for Rishabh Pant for India A's matches against New Zealand A in Vijayawada, where he scored 65 in the only innings he played in the series. At the moment, he seems to be doing everything right, and has vastly improved behind the stumps as well; what also goes in his favour is that Parthiv can double up as India's Test opener as well. He remains a favourite if India need a back-up wicketkeeper for tours abroad.
The selectors would want: Parthiv to stay fit and in form.
Thakur recently had a whiff of international cricket, playing the last two ODIs in India's whitewash of Sri Lanka last month. In two matches, he took only one wicket, but the selectors have made it clear that the fast bowler remains high on their list.
His in-your-face attitude, coupled with tight lines, has helped Shardul emerge as the country's premiere quick in domestic cricket. And while Thakur took only 27 wickets in last year's Ranji season, his wicket-taking abilities in the two seasons prior brought him in the radar. He was part of the five back-up players named by India during the Champions Trophy in England, and took six wickets in two first-class games against New Zealand A recently.
His consistency over the past few seasons has seen him develop as India's back-up in ODIs; Thakur will now aim to make a mark in the first-class circuit.
The selectors would want: Thakur to improve and stay consistent with his pace, bowl longer spells
The highest wicket-taker of the last two Ranji seasons, Nadeem is at the top of his game at the moment. Nadeem took 14 wickets in two first-class matches recently against New Zealand A, which followed 11 wickets in two away matches against South Africa A, to make a strong case for Test selection.
Nadeem bowls a nagging line, and his spin - or sometimes the lack of it - can get the better of batsmen who begin to lose their patience. He finished with 13 wickets more than the second-highest wicket-taker last season in the Ranji Trophy, and is the highest-rated spinner among those playing the trade in domestic cricket.
The chances of India looking beyond R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja and Kuldeep Yadav remain slim, especially abroad. He is likely to face competition from Karn Sharma, who also is on the selectors' radar, and could be a more attractive option as a legspinner. However Nadeem can only continue to believe.
The selectors would want: For him to carry his current form forward and bowl match-winning spells.