In a leisurely land that breeds a multitude of tourist brochures, South India’s leading cricketers will test each other under temperatures hovering around 35 degrees, over the next one week.

The Subbaiah Pillai Trophy South Zone limited overs tournament will commence across Goa’s varied venues — Margao, Vasco and Porvorim — on Thursday.

The first set of matches may be appetisers for the fancied teams but Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad would be well advised to stay guarded against Goa, Andhra and Kerala respectively.

Last year’s Goa’s victory over Tamil Nadu at Bangalore is a footnote that should not be ignored.

The annual tournament returns to the coastal State after its last edition here in 2005 and the host will take on defending champion Karnataka in the opening fixture.

“Led by Sagun Kamat, we have fine players like Swapnil Asnodkar, Shadab Jakati and Manvinder Bisla. We also have an exciting fast bowler Gauresh Gawas, who is one of the quickest bowlers I have seen,” said Goa coach Dodda Ganesh.

Good strength

Karnataka will miss regular skipper R. Vinay Kumar and wicket-keeeper batsman C.M. Gautam, who are getting ready for the India `A’ game against Australia in Chennai but batting coach Arun Kumar stressed that his squad has adequate strength.

“Robin Uthappa and captain Stuart Binny will join us immediately after their Board President’s XI game against Australia at Chennai. Besides the experienced players, we also have some bright youngsters like Karun Nair, K.L. Rahul and Mayank Agarwal,” Arun said.

Ahead of its game against Tamil Nadu, Andhra trained here at the MCC Ground.

The squad will rely on its experienced bunch of captain A.G. Pradeep, Syed Sahabuddin, Amol Muzumdar, B. Sumanth and Gnaneswara Rao.

Andhra will have to cope with a fired-up Tamil Nadu.

A below-par showing in the Ranji Trophy and last year’s failure to finish among the top-two in the Subbaiah Pillai tournament, will egg Dinesh Karthik’s men to salvage pride.

Fire in unison

The core group of S. Badrinath, Abhinav Mukund, Arun Karthick, Aniruda Srikkanth, B. Aparajith and Yo Mahesh have to fire in unison for Tamil Nadu to prosper.

In another key game at Vasco, last year’s runner-up Hyderabad, led by Pragyan Ojha, will have to contend with Kerala that has S. Sreesanth in the team-list.

Ojha will play only two games before joining the Indian team’s preparatory camp at Bangalore ahead of the Tests against Australia.

With a berth in the All India Vijay Hazare tournament awaiting the top two teams and the added incentive for unsung players to catch the eye of the Indian Premier League’s various talent scouts, the cricketers have a lot to play for under the Goan sun.

Thursday’s matches:

Goa vs Karnataka (Porvorim); Tamil Nadu vs Andhra (Margao); Hyderabad vs Kerala (Vasco).

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