The senior men's domestic cricket season begins on November 4, 2021, with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy which will feature 38 teams and 105 matches. The Elite Division will comprise five groups of six teams each, while the Plate Group will feature eight teams.
A look at 10 players to watch out for as the first instalment of the season gets underway:
The 22-year-old was the leading run-scorer in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2021 with 635 runs at an average of 45.35, and will look to carry his red-hot form at the top of the order for Maharashtra while also leading the team in the tournament. The Pune-based batter was the second-highest run-scorer in the 2019-2020 edition, amassing 419 runs at a strike-rate of 146.5.
Iyer turned heads in the UAE phase of the league with 370 runs at 41.11 for Kolkata Knight Riders. The 26-year-old, who had a stellar SMAT 2020-21 season with Madhya Pradesh, scoring 227 runs at 75.67 and striking at 150.33, is also a handy medium-pacer and will be key for his State team’s campaign this time around, too.
After a poor showing in the UAE leg of IPL 2021, the flamboyant opener will be eager to get some runs under his belt to help Mumbai bounce back after a horrid 2020-21 season. The 21-year-old has been a consistent performer for Mumbai and scored a staggering 827 runs in eight matches in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2021-22. Shaw will act as captain Ajinkya Rahane’s deputy and is likely to open the innings alongside Yashasvi Jaiswal.
The elegant left-hander is RCB’s leading run-scorer since making his IPL debut in 2020. He has also been Karnataka’s mainstay in white-ball cricket since the 2019 season when he topped both the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy run charts. The 21-year-old continued his purple patch the following year, striking a whopping 218 and 737 in the two marquee tournaments, respectively.
After a slump in the UAE leg of IPL 2021, Karnataka will hope Padikkal bounces back strongly as it eyes a third title.
Natarajan grabbed eyeballs in his breakthrough IPL season in 2020 with 16 wickets and his ability to consistently bowl searing yorkers in the death overs. While Tamil Nadu will rely on his services for its title defence, national selectors will have an eye on his return from injury as a left-arm pacer still eludes the Indian cricket team’s ranks.
Coming off a sensational IPL 2021 with 12 wickets and a tight economy-rate of 6.34 for Punjab Kings, the leg-spinner will be vital to Rajasthan, which will be looking to go the distance after two straight semifinal losses. Bishnoi was the leading wicket-taker for the team in the last edition with 11 wickets from seven matches at just 5.75 run an over.
The Purple Cap holder of IPL 2021 with a record-equaling haul of 32 wickets in the season, Patel will bring momentum and experience to Haryana’s campaign. The right-arm seamer’s knack for picking wickets at the death and his ability to strike the ball batting lower down the order will hold Haryana in good stead.
The veteran pacer marked an impressive return to international cricket with six wickets in the Oval Test against England in September. With 148 T20 wickets to his name, Yadav will spearhead Vidarbha’s young bowling attack as the team looks to rebuild after being relegated to the Plate Division.
One of the most experienced all-rounders in the domestic circuit and a former IPL star, Iqbal Abdulla will lead Mizoram in the tournament after representing Uttarakhand in the last season. While the 31-year-old’s performance of late has been lacklustre, his experience and acumen will be crucial for a side that looks to recover after going winless last time. The left-arm spinner has 83 T20 wickets at 6.97 runs per over and can play the occasional cameo lower down the order.
The Meghalaya skipper etched his name in record books when he notched up the highest individual score in the tournament with a stellar 51-ball 146 against Mizoram last season. The 35-year-old former Delhi wicketkeeper has been on the domestic circuit since 2006 and has earned a reputation as one of the cleanest hitters of the ball, striking at 144.36 in T20s and 100.99 in List A.
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