IPL auction lends relevance to T20 tourney

The main purpose of the inter-zonal Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, which kicks off at Wankhede Stadium on Sunday, will be to act as the feeder or tune-up to the Indian Premier League.


Manoj Tiwary (left) and Saurabh Tiwary of East Zone chat during a practice session at the Wankhede Stadium.   -  Vivek Bendre

The latest experiment in a spree of BCCI’s revision of its domestic cricket structure – the inter-zonal Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy Twenty20 tournament – will kick off at the Wankhede Stadium on Sunday. With the sheen of earning the prized possession having gone with the revamp – the inter-State knockouts are now replaced by an inter-zonal tournament - the main purpose of it will be to act as the feeder or tune-up to the Indian Premier League (IPL).

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With the IPL Player Auction having been postponed to February 20 due to the administrative muddle the BCCI finds itself in, the Twenty20 championship will have more relevance rather than only serving as an opportunity to some veterans whose cricket season starts in April and ends the next month.

More than half of the 80-odd players who will feature in the week-long tournament do not have an IPL contract. These youngsters will be keen to impress a battery of IPL franchise talent scouts, who will be watching from the sidelines along with at least one of the national selectors.

East Zone skipper Manoj Tiwary presented both sides of the coin of this factor. “Definitely it is a very big platform just ahead of the auction, but having said that my job and coach’s job will be to make sure that nobody should get into that frame of mind. If players get into that frame of mind then it becomes individual stuff and not focussing on the team aspect,” Tiwary said.

“Obviously, it is a big platform, but I would tell them that play the way that they have been playing in the zonal games and be free. Because whenever we think about the future we tend to miss out on the present, so it’s going to happen the same (way) if someone is going to think about the IPL auction then he might miss out on the present situation which he is playing the game on that given day.”

Seniors’ presence, Raina pulls out

The big positive for the tournament is the presence of some of India’s white-ball specialists along with those who have also tasted success at the international stage. Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, Shikhar Dhawan, Mandeep Singh, Rishabh Pant (North Zone), Parthiv Patel, Kedar Jadhav, Irfan Pathan, Jasprit Bumrah (West Zone), Naman Ojha, Ambati Rayudu (Central Zone), R. Vinay Kumar, Dinesh Karthik (South Zone), Manoj Tiwary, Saurabh Tiwary, Ashok Dinda (East Zone) will feature in the tournament.

Patel, the West Zone captain, said the presence of international players will help all domestic cricketers. “It’s good to play against the best teams. Almost everyone who is available will be playing, so probably a very important tournament when it comes to assessing yourself against the best,” Patel said ahead of the tournament-opener against Central Zone.

Even then, many of these cricketers will hop over to the Brabourne Stadium midway through the tournament to join India A for a warm-up tie against the visiting Australians. Moreover, Suresh Raina, who had been announced the captain of the Central Zone, has conspicuously pulled out of the tournament, thus handing over the charge to Ojha.

Sunday’s fixtures: West Zone v Central Zone (9.30 am), South Zone v North Zone (1.30pm).

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