Know your challengers - India Red

With the major Indian stars not playing, the Challenger Trophy this season features many unfamiliar faces. Cricinfo, in a three-part series, profiles the lesser-known players whose selection may come in as a surprise at first look. India Red, featured in this part, will be led by Mohammad Kaif. Gautam Gambhir, Subramaniam Badrinath, Ravneet Ricky, Praveen Kumar, Pragyan Ojha and Ishant Sharma are the better-known players in the side. Now for the relative unknowns:

Virat Kohli

Phrases such as "most talented youngster" have followed him since his junior days and Kohli is doing his bit to live up to it. His 90 against Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy, an innings that helped Delhi avert the follow-on, was an illustration of his mental fortitude: his father had died in the wee hours of the morning, but he insisted on resuming his innings to guide his side to safety. The 2005-06 Ranji season, his first, produced 257 runs at 36.71, and he put together a string of good scores for India Under-19, against their England, New Zealand and Sri Lanka counterparts.
Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 179, S/R: 131.61

Pinal Shah

Shah, the Baroda wicketkeeper, had scored a first-class double century before he represented India in the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka last year. Stable behind the stumps, Shah is an aggressive batsman, which gives him an edge over other young wicketkeepers. In the Challengers, though, with the presence of Mahesh Rawat in the India Red side, Shah might be looked at as a specialist batsman, if he plays. This will be the start of his third first-class season.
Last season, List A
Runs: 249, Ave: 62.25

Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 106, S/R: 147.22

Paresh Patel

Twenty20 is perceived as a bowlers' graveyard, but Paresh, a left-arm spinner from Orissa, used this format to resurrect his career, which was threatening to peter out after a forgettable debut season in 2005-06. Paresh entered the first-class scene in late 2005, which was a reward for some consistent performances at the age-group levels, but ended the season with a solitary wicket in six games. He hadn't been picked for 15 months since, but the inaugural domestic Twenty20 offered him a chance, which he grabbed gleefully. Seventeen wickets in eight games at 10.64 - the second-highest wiclets tally and the best average among the top eight wicket-takers - pushed him into the reckoning.
Last season, Twenty20

Siddharth Trivedi

A member of the Under-19 team that reached the semi-final of the World Cup in New Zealand in 2002, Trivedi, the Gujarat medium-pacer, was an early starter in first-class cricket. In his first-class debut, in 2002-03, he took a five-for against UP. After an impressive first season, he was rewarded with the Border-Gavaskar scholarship and later a place in the Challengers next season, where he played only one match and ended with 1 for 34 in four overs.
When Greg Chappell took over as the India coach in 2005, Trivedi was a part of the 30-member conditioning camp. He has since been part of the A team that played the Top End series in Australia and New Zealand in 2006.

Last season, List A
Wickets: 9, Ave: 27.88, Economy: 4.32

Last season, Twenty20

Karan Goel

Goel, 20, is an attacking opening batsman who was the leading run-getter in the inaugural domestic Twenty20 Championship last season, guiding Punjab to the final. A batsman who can bowl part-time offbreaks, Goel was chosen as the player of the year by the Punjab Cricket Association. Stronger on the off side, he rates the cover drive as his favourite shot. He started playing under the tutelage of his father, a university-grade cricketer, before chiseling his skills under coach Charanjit Singh. He is currently working with the Punjab coach Daljit Singh.
Last season, List A
Runs: 406, Ave: 45.11

Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 313, S/R: 107.93

Mahesh Rawat

Rawat is a wicketkeeper-batsman who played for Haryana before shifting to Railways this season. Solid both behind and in front of the stumps, he made his first-class debut in 2003-04. However, it was in 2006-07 season that he hit a purple patch, rattling two centuries and a half-century in the Duleep Trophy at an average of 93.66. He is an efficient wicketkeeper and a dependable lower-order batsman who has even opened in one-day games. He was a part of the India A team that toured Kenya.
Last season, List A
Runs: 91, Ave: 91

Last season, Twenty20
Runs: 110, S/R: 103.77

Shrikant Mundhe

Mundhe is a right-arm medium-pacer and a lower-order batsman who has played for Maharashtra and India Under-19. In his debut match for Maharashtra U-14s, in January 2002, Mundhe scored an unbeaten 59 batting at No. 10. In six first-class matches he has snared 16 wickets with a career-best match-winning 5 for 18 against Saurashtra during the Ranji One-Day Trophy in early 2007. He has represented India U-19s in just one game, against their Sri Lankan counterparts, also in 2007. But an impressive one-day season has brought him into the reckoning for the Challengers.
Last season, List A
Wickets: 16, Ave: 13.06, Econ: 4.69

Last season, Twenty20