All eyes on IPL auction as T20 tourney enters super league phase

As Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy enters its decisive super league phase followed by the final, all eyes will be fixed on the individuals who shine here just ahead of the much-awaited IPL auctions.

Hrishikesh Kanitkar, the Tamil Nadu coach, acknowledged the potentially tough challenge his team faces against Delhi.   -  R. Ragu

Even as it reverts from its zonal format to be an event involving the pride of state units, the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament retains its charm for the Indian Premier League (IPL) aspirants.

As the premier domestic T20 event enters its decisive super league phase followed by the final, all eyes will be fixed on the individuals who shine here just ahead of the much-awaited IPL auctions. Ten teams, which have progressed from the zonal stage, have been divided into two groups. The group toppers will play the final on January 27, coinciding with the start of the IPL auctions.

Tamil Nadu, which finished second in South Zone, will take on North Zone topper Delhi in a mouth-watering Group B super league opener at the Eden Gardens on Sunday.

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Despite the absence of R. Ashwin and Dinesh Karthik, Tamil Nadu has some established names, including Baba Aparajith, Washington Sundar, and talented youngsters.

Coach Hrishikesh Kanitkar sounded cautious about Delhi, studded with impact players like top run-getter Rishabh Pant and experienced Gautam Gambhir. “Delhi has players who can take the game away from you. They play the shorter version a lot in local Delhi cricket and are a serious opposition,” said Kanitkar.

The absence of speedster Naveep Saini may hurt Delhi.

Bengal to take on Baroda

In the other Group B engagement, East Zone topper Bengal, including Manoj Tiwary and Shreevats Goswami, will take on West Zone leader Baroda, featuring Kedar Devdhar and Deepak Hooda. Uttar Pradesh, led by Suresh Raina, is the other side in the group.

Karnataka, the best South Zone side, and Punjab may make the opening Group A match an interesting contest at the Jadavpur University ground. Karnataka will pose a tough challenge for its opponents because of the presence of players like Karun Nair, Mayank Agarwal, Stuart Binny and Sreenath Aravind.

The Harbhajan Singh-led Punjab has done well due to the good work of its batsmen, such as Yuvraj Singh, Manan Vohra and Mandeep Singh, and will be keen to perform better.

Mumbai faces Jharkhand

Mumbai, which will miss the services of pacer Shardul Thakur, will rely on Dhawal Kulkarni in bowling and Siddhesh Lad and Aditya Tare in batting. Mumbai’s rival on Sunday will be Jharkhand, which is studded with the quality of Ishank Jaggi, Ishan Kisan and Saurabh Tiwary.

Rajasthan benefitted from the fine showing of Ankit Lamba, Mahipal Lomror, Khaleel Ahmed, Deepak Chahar and Aniket Choudahry and will strive to achieve bigger glory.