The Mushtaq Ali Trophy all-India T20 tournament, starting here on Friday, will provide a lead into the form of domestic players tuning up for their respective franchises in Indian Premier League fifth edition next month.

The next major competition is the ICC T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka this September, a long way off compared to the IPL, so players involved in the BCCI-organised T20 tournament named after Mushtaq Ali have immediate goals in mind.

Captained by Ajit Agarkar, the host, which has included India middle-order batsman Rohit Sharma in the squad of 15, faces off against the power-packed Tamil Nadu in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

The opener will feature Karnataka against Baroda.

The unpredictable nature of this format can throw up surprises. Madhya Pradesh and Bengal were finalists last year with the latter coming up trumps.

The schedule:

Pre-quarterfinals: March 23: Karnataka vs Baroda; Punjab vs Assam.

Quarterfinals: March 24: Delhi vs Railways, Mumbai vs TN.

March 25: Bengal vs winner of Karnataka vs Baroda, Madhya Pradesh vs winner of Punjab vs Assam.

Semifinals: March 26. Final: March 27.

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