After the conclusion of the Ranji Trophy season wherein Vidarbha were crowned champions after beating Delhi in the final, the BCCI took a wise decision by fast-tracking the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this year, which is India’s premier Zonal T20 league, considering the fast-approaching IPL auctions on January 27 and 28.
The move to prepone the tournament will offer the IPL franchises a chance to look at the local talent on display and accordingly make their moves at the all important auctions later this month. As a result, the players featuring in the competition will also be approaching the games with greater motivation.
We take a look at five players to look out for in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2018.
1. Yuvraj Singh (Punjab)
With the Sunrisers Hyderabad opting against retaining his services, veteran southpaw Yuvraj Singh will most likely see the zonal T20 league as a platform to prove his fitness and form with solid performances for Punjab. If he can replicate his destructive hitting prowess of the past, the now discarded India batsman can also use the tournament to catch the eye of Indian team management and selectors.
After an inconsistent run with the bat in the past year or so, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy is perhaps Yuvraj’s last chance to prove that he still belongs at the highest stage and get the IPL franchises thinking.
2. Rishabh Pant (Delhi)
The young left-hander was Delhi’s captain for most part of their Ranji Trophy campaign and did well to guide his team to the final but his form with the bat was disappointing to say the least. The destructive lad was retained by the Delhi Daredevils and can therefore play the zonal T20 league without the pressure of impressing possible suitors at the IPL auctions. Pant was in good for the Daredevils last season and can prove his team’s decision to retain his services for a whopping INR 15 crores if does well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
After losing his place in the Indian setup and a below-par domestic, Pant can use this tournament to regain his form and shut his doubters.
3. Jaydev Unadkat (Saurashtra)
After a stunning IPL campaign in 2017 where he picked up 24 wickets at an impressive economy rate of 7.05 and narrowly missed out on the Purple Cap to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jaydev Unadkat has now emerged as India’s third-choice T20 bowler behind Bumrah and Bhuvi. The Saurashtra-bowler will also be back in the auction pool later this month and can certainly spark a bidding war given the fact that left-arm seam bowlers are always in high demand among the IPL franchises.
If Unadkat performs at a high level in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he will go on to enhance his reputation as one of the best T20 bowlers going around in the country right now.
4. Krunal Pandya (Baroda)
Krunal Pandya was one of the stars of Mumbai Indians’ journey to the IPL title in 2017 and he expected to be one of the most sought-after players at the upcoming auctions later this month. If he can do well in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for Baroda, it is highly likely that Mumbai Indians might even use one of their ‘Right To Match’ cards to retain his services for the upcoming IPL season.
With the priceless ability to change the course of a game with both bat and ball, a good showing in the domestic T20 league will certainly improve the senior Pandya’s chances of being one of the most sought-after players at the IPL auctions.
5. Gautam Gambhir (Delhi)
One of the success stories of Delhi’s Ranji Trophy campaign was veteran opener Gautam Gambhir as he enjoyed a stellar season with the bat and was one of the architect’s of Delhi’s run to the final. Gambhir has also been one of the standout IPL performers ever since the league began and has even led the Kolkata Knight Riders to two titles with his batting and inspirational leadership. Now that he has been let-off by the Kolkata based franchise, Gambhir can use the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as an ideal stage to prove his credentials in the shortest form of the game and attract a decent price at the auctions later this month.
If the veteran left-hander does have a strong tournament, he can also be one of the hot picks among the IPL franchises as he will one of the marquee players available in the auction pool and also brings with him the experience of winning the trophy more than once.