The absence of the India internationals from both teams has taken some sheen off the Ranji Trophy semifinal between Bengal and Karnataka that gets underway at the Eden Gardens on Tuesday.
But what it could not rob the five-day battle of is the intensity with which the teams are approaching the match. The prestige and the platform of getting noticed for the big league are the perks that come with the package.
Bengal do not have Sourav Ganguly from the XI that played the last match. Karnataka do not have Rahul Dravid and Robin Uthappa. But while both teams are pretty much used to playing without the former and the current India skippers, the inclusion of opener Uthappa in the Indian squad will surely hurt the visitors. Having scored 854 runs in seven Ranji matches, the 21-year-old son of former international hockey umpire Venu has left a void right at the top of the Karnataka batting order.
Also missing in the spin department is Sunil Joshi's left-arm partner K Appanna, who is touring New Zealand with the India under-19 team. He is Karnataka's third-highest wicket-taker after Joshi and medium-pacer R Vinay Kumar. Vinay too had lost his strike partner N Aiyappa just two matches into the tournament with a knee injury.
"Uthappa will be a huge loss for us. But we can't do anything about it other than feel very happy for him," coach Venkatesh Prasad said after practice session on Monday
"This is the time to test your bench and this will create an opportunity for the others to stand up and deliver," he added. Karnataka do have batsmen like skipper Yere Goud, who has 450 runs in six matches, wicketkeeper Thilak Naidu who has 555 runs in seven matches and C Raghu, who has contributed 441 in seven matches. But the batsman likely to replace Uthappa in the opener's slot, Bharat Chipli, is struggling for form and was dropped after scoring just 126 runs in the first four matches he played.
With the city gearing up for the Republic Day parade, resulting in blocking of the approaches to the stadium, Karnataka started training almost a couple of hours ahead of schedule.
Just going by statistics, Deep Dasgupta's boys will have little reason to take the visitors lightly. The morale-booster could come from the fact that Bengal had defeated Karnataka a couple of years back here and had taken two points from them last year in Bangalore.
But a comparison of the teams' batsmen on paper will find the hosts lacking. The medium-pace department, though, can give Bengal some hope. With Shib Sankar Paul missing right from the start of the season due to an injury, Ranadeb Bose has shouldered the responsibility rather well with 38 wickets in six matches.