Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy: Players aim to make impact ahead of IPL auction

The focus will be on out-of-form opener Shikhar Dhawan and Prithvi Shaw, who recently returned to competitive cricket after serving his eight-month ban.

Shikhar Dhawan (left) has scored 63 runs in four matches in the tournament, while Prithvi Shaw slammed a fifty on his return from the ban. (File Photo)   -  VIVEK BENDRE

Over the next 12 days, players from 10 teams will get one final shot at showcasing their abilities in the shortest format of the game ahead of the Indian Premier League (IPL) auctions on December 19 in Kolkata as the Super League phase of the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament kicks off here on Thursday.

With IPL scouts from most teams set to prowl the two venues - C. B, Patel Ground and Lalbhai Contractor Stadium - it will be interesting to see how the players and teams manage the expectations.

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Delhi coach KP Bhaskar conceded that the IPL auction is something everyone is aware of: “It is natural the auctions are at the back of their minds. But you have to keep reminding them to stay in the present moment and not to think too far ahead. If you do well then automatically you would be picked there and many of them are mature enough to understand that.”

Players like Yusuf Pathan and Deepak Hooda (Baroda), Dhruv Shorey (Delhi) and Rahul Tripathi (Maharashtra), who were recently released by their IPL teams, will  hope to make a mark while promising pacers like Tushar Deshpande (Mumbai) and G. Periyasamy (Tamil Nadu) will be on the radar as well.

The Super League phase will see some high-profile clashes with domestic heavyweights like Mumbai, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu in the same group. On Thursday, it will be a South Indian derby between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka that will be the marquee match amongst the four contests.

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The two teams recently met in the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy one-day competition, where Karnataka came out on top. The latter is the defending champion and has some strong players in the likes of KL Rahul, Karun Nair and Manish Pandey, though K Gowtham is unavailable due to an injury.

Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, will miss the services of opening batsman Murali Vijay who suffered an ankle injury and the opening is an area of concern for Tamil Nadu according to coach D. Vasu.

In the first match of the day, Delhi takes on Maharashtra and the relatively inexperienced team led by Shorey will be heavily dependent on Shikhar Dhawan to lead the way. Mumbai and Haryana start their campaigns on Friday against Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan respectively.

Teams Qualified:

A1-Baroda, A2-Karnataka

B1-Tamil Nadu, B2-Rajasthan

C1-Maharashtra, C2-Punjab

 D1-Mumbai, D2-Haryana

E1-Delhi, E2-Jharkhand