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Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: A T20 tournament minus cheer, leader

With no buzz, glitz and big stars; Syed Mushtaq Trophy provides unique challenges to fringe players. It will be played at the same time as the cash-rich and glitzy IPL.

Written by Vishal Menon | New Delhi |
Updated: February 21, 2019 11:11:09 am
Syed Mushtaq Trophy T20, Indian Premier League auction, IPL, yusuf pathan, IPL schedule, BCCI, ICC World Cup 2019, cricket news, indain express Yusuf Pathan will look to carry his good form into the Syed Mushtaq Trophy. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

Is the domestic Syed Mushtaq Trophy T20 tournament redundant this year since it’s scheduled after the Indian Premier League auction? In the past, this tournament was strategically staged ahead of the IPL auctions, with a slew of impressive performances by fringe players being a sure-shot guarantee to catch the attention of deep pocketed franchise owners. Cut to 2019 and it’s a different story. For a majority of players and support staff, though, the tournament, which begins on Thursday presents unique challenges and opportunities.

Barely 24 hours after the BCCI had officially announced the schedule for the first two weeks of the IPL, players from 34 domestic teams across five venues were preparing for cricket’s diet version. Maharashtra captain Rahul Tripathi said that it would be too early to dismiss the tournament’s importance as he believed the World Cup could just throw up a tantalising possibility, wherein a certain player could get rested, keeping in mind his workload.

“You never know…a good performance here could just put a player back in the reckoning. Someone could get injured and with the World Cup around the corner, there might be a case when an established player could get rested keeping in mind his excess workload. This might just prompt a last-minute scramble for replacements amongst franchises,” Tripathi said.

He also reckoned that a robust performance would go a long way in galvanising his team’s spirits after their insipid Ranji Trophy campaign, where they failed to qualify for the knock-outs.

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“Irrespective of the timing, this is a great domestic tournament, and playing for your state team is something all of us aspire for. An impressive show here will restore confidence in our team after our lacklustre performances in the Ranji Trophy.”

Tripathi, who will feature for the Rajasthan Royals this season, is among the several notable fringe players who have impressed with his big hits and innovative stroke-play at the IPL.

Syed Mushtaq Trophy T20, Indian Premier League auction, IPL, yusuf pathan, IPL schedule, BCCI, ICC World Cup 2019, cricket news, indain express

The 27-year-old does agree that staging the Syed Mushtaq before the IPL auction made sense as it served a platform for some of the fringe players to assert themselves. “It’s a valid point that you’re making. Till last season, the Syed Mushtaq would be held before the IPL auctions. So, a good performance would help you get picked by the franchises on the auction day.”

Others like Avishkar Salvi , former India fast bowler, who is now the coach of newbies Puducherry, said there was far too much emphasis attached to the IPL. “Why is there so much importance attached to the IPL? No doubt, it’s a great league, but it does not in anyway dilute this BCCI tournament.”

There’s an extra incentive for Salvi’s team and the bunch of new teams from the North-east, who are making their debut this season. “For us, this is the first time that we’re playing in the big league. In the Ranji Trophy, we were clubbed with the new teams. However, this tournament gives us the extra incentive of competing with some of the more established teams. This is what is driving us to play the Syed Mushtaq Trophy,” Salvi asserted.

This tournament would also give some of the more seasoned players such as Harbhajan Singh, who plays for the Chennai Super Kings, and Yusuf Pathan, an incumbent with the Sunrisers Hyderabad, an ideal preparatory ground for the IPL, at the same time serving the selectors with a gentle reminder of their presence in domestic circuit.

While Harbhajan has kept himself away from Ranji Trophy this season, making his presence for Punjab only in the shorter formats, Pathan has been Baroda’s batting mainstay across formats in their largely underwhelming season so far.

“For me, the biggest motivation is to play for India. It’s something that keeps me going. After some consistent performances in the Vijay Hazare and Ranji Trophy, I hope I can emulate my good form with both bat and ball in this tournament as well, as this will keep me in a good frame of mind when the IPL begins next month,” Pathan said.

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