Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: North Zone players look to impress IPL scouts

HPCA official confirmed that Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils scouts will be present during the matches.

Shikhar Dhawan and Gautam Gambhir

With Gautam Gambhir leading the side and the likes of Shikhar Dhawan in the ranks, Delhi clearly boasts of the biggest arsenal of star power on paper.   -  Special arrangement

With the hard grind of the season behind them and vacant spots in the Indian Premier League (IPL) up for grabs soon after the matches end here, quite a few players in the North Zone leg of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy beginning on Sunday would be hoping to come good enough to impress the IPL scouts and bag that coveted contract.

With a tweak in format this year that has split the tournament into two parts – a zonal competition followed by an inter-zone tournament later featuring the top-performing players from the states – the inter-state competition has come at just the right moment for those currently out of favour as well as those looking to break through the ranks.

With Gautam Gambhir leading the side and the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Ishant Sharma in the ranks, Delhi clearly boasts of the biggest arsenal of star power on paper. Dhawan disappointed in the two ODIs against England recently before being dropped for the third and was not selected for the T20 series, giving him enough motivation to get back his form here. Sharma, on the other hand, has not just been out of the national side, but has been released by Rising Pune Supergiants and would be looking at this competition as a platform to get back into form ahead of the IPL auction next month.

In fact, given the poor form of Indian openers despite various combinations being tried, even Gambhir – who last played a T20 in 2012 and an ODI in early 2013 – may fancy this being his one last chance to break through. The rousing return of Yuvraj Singh would surely have given him hope.

There would be others too, hoping for a second wind in the wake of Yuvraj's success. Harbhajan Singh, captaining Punjab, would definitely be one of them. As would Haryana skipper and current India discard Mohit Sharma. Others including the likes of Unmukt Chand and last year's big-ticket disappointment, Pawan Negi, would be looking to catch the IPL scouts' eyes with HPCA official confirming that at least two – Royal Challengers Bangalore and Delhi Daredevils – would be present during the matches.

With games spread across two venues – it was initially supposed to be at three venues, here, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Stadium in Amtar 65 kilometres away and Bilaspur before the last was dropped due to weather conditions – it would also be a test of the teams' fitness given that all teams play every day. Services and Himachal Pradesh would be looking to upset past the bigger teams, as would Jammu & Kashmir, who begins its campaign against Delhi on the opening day.

With former Delhi veteran Mithun Manhas guiding it, J&K would be hoping to cover up for the absence of its biggest star after Parvez Rasool was called up for India duty against England.

The other match here would be between host Himachal and Services while Punjab would be taking on Haryana at Amtar.

Sunday's matches: Pubjab vs Haryana (at Amtar), Himachal vs Services, Delhi vs J&K (at Dharamsala).

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