Mithali Raj's Railways are favourites in the domestic one-day competition, but face competition from others. © Getty Images

Mithali Raj's Railways are favourites in the domestic one-day competition, but face competition from others. © Getty Images

The 2014-15 one-day season for women’s cricket in India began on December 6 across the country, promising some close contests.

The format is unchanged from last year. Railways, the Elite division champions, have strengthened their squad with the addition of  current internationals Harmanpreet Kaur and Poonam Yadav, besides Priyanka Roy and Shravanti Naidu.

The Elite A pool could well be the ‘group of death’, for, giving Railways company are the Jhulan Goswami-led Bengal, who won the Plate division last year, and whose Under-19 team recently lifted the national championship. Also in the group are Hyderabad, led by their new captain, M Shalini. They ran Railways close in both their Twenty20 encounters last year, and will look to do better this time. Railways will also have to deal with Uttar Pradesh, last year’s runners-up, and Delhi, who will be bolstered by the return of veteran Reema Malhotra.

Elite Group B also promises some close encounters, with four of the five teams more or less equal in strength, boasting at least one player who has represented India. Tripura will be the underdogs, keen to spring a surprise or two. The 18-year-old Smriti Mandhana will lead Maharashtra for the first time in the one-day format. Her young team also includes the U-19 highest run-getter Devika Vaidya, and highest wicket-taker, 15-year-old Maya Sonawane.

In the Plate division, there are never any clear favourites, and all teams will contest for the top spot in their pools, as this could mean a chance for promotion into the Elite division next season. Shikha Pandey and Thirushkamini, fresh from strong performances in the recent home series against South Africa Women, will look to carry that form into the domestic season. Their teams, Goa and Tamil Nadu respectively, along with Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, are the teams to watch. Karnataka in particular, with Veda Krishnamurthy returning to their ranks, would be hard pressed not to reach the last two.