A special feature of the 36th Deodhar Trophy is the presence of a foreign team for the first time, in the form of Zimbabwe President's XI. The other interesting point about the meet beginning on Friday is the reluctance of most of the five Indian teams to appoint the coaches who did well with their state sides.
North Zone are a cut above the rest in this regard. They don't have a coach at all. Apart from the 15 playing members of the squad, they have a manager and a physio.
“Because the board pays for the expenses of 17 people, the team is travelling without a coach," said a source in the Delhi and Districts Cricket Association.
Central is the only team which has come here with a coach whose state side has done well this season - Gyanendra Pandey of Uttar Pradesh. East and South have Samir Dighe of Tripura and Karnataka's Raghuram Bhatt, respectively. None of their teams made it to the knockout stage of the national one-dayers or did anything of note in Ranji Trophy.
West have Debu Mitra, whose Saurashtra side has been doing well for quite some time.
But the catch here is Mitra was appointed only after Atul Bedade pulled out at the last minute due to his mother's illness.
Bedade, incidentally, is not even the coach of Baroda.
West Zone's convenor of selection committee, Hemant Waingankar, refused to explain why successful coaches like Pravin Amre or Paras Mhambrey were not chosen. He only confirmed that Mitra was appointed after Bedade opted out. Mhambrey said he was not even asked whether he was interested.
South's case is curious too. They have ignored W.V.Raman, whose Tamil Nadu side won the national one-day title on Monday and reached the Ranji Trophy semi-finals earlier in the season.
Like Mhambrey, Raman was not consulted. "All I can say is that I didn't refuse any offer to be the coach of South Zone," he said.
Not many were willing to say anything officially but Vijay Dahiya, the Delhi coach, said no team can do without a coach. "It's not about technicalities because players know those things. The role of a coach is important as a consultant. The players can approach him when they look for answers in situations when someone watching from outside can give inputs that they can't."
Bengal allrounder Laxmi Ratan Shukla withdrew from the season's last domestic tournament with a side strain. He will be replaced by Assam opener Shib Shankar Ray, it was learnt.
Friday's matches: West vs South (Barabati Stadium). North vs Central (Ravenshaw College ground).