In the pre-tournament press conference, Lyca Kovai Kings skipper M. Shahrukh Khan identified leg-spinner Jhathavedh Subramanyam and hard-hitting batter Atheeq-ur-Rahman as two players to watch out for in the TNPL from his side.
His words couldn’t have been more prophetic as the two reserved their best efforts for the final in which Kovai Kings posted a thumping win, beating Nellai Royal Kings by 104 runs to clinch their second title.
While Atheeq set it up with a 21-ball 50, Jhatavedh did the rest with a four-wicket haul in the final.
The team nailed the auction, getting back most of its core players from last year and has a very young squad that Shahrukh says is built for the next three years. The team drew admiration for the brand of cricket they played, calculated but fearless, led by a proactive skipper.
B. Sai Sudharsan set the tone in the first six matches with four half-centuries and ensured the team qualified for the playoffs.
But once he left for the Duleep Trophy, the likes of B. Sachin and J. Suresh Kumar stepped up. With the ball, skipper Shahrukh led from the front, even bowling in the PowerPlay and finished as the highest wicket-taker.
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A key architect for the team’s success has been U. Mukilesh. The middle-order batter played the perfect anchor allowing the hitters at the other end the freedom to play their games and post big scores.
“In 2021, he played all games and didn’t score runs. We were unhappy with him, and he even blundered an easy chase in one match. But we believed because he realised his mistake and hasn’t done it since.
During the auction, everyone questioned his selection. I don’t need to answer them now; they have seen enough. Whenever the team needed someone to step up, Mukilesh was there,” said Shahrukh.
Mukilesh said, “I learnt a lot from Sai Sudharsan about anchoring an innings. He spoke about how he did a similar role in the IPL and that I will get my chance to be more expressive one day.”
With the ball, pacer Gowtham Thamarai Kannan delivered with the new ball, while the likes of M. Siddharth and Jhatavedh ensured the team had a potent spin attack with variety.
The league’s highest run-getter and player of the tournament, G. Ajitesh, excelled at the top of the order with his clean striking ability and was impressive with his composure while chasing.
Rithik Easwaran, the young keeper-bat, starred in a few games with vital cameos and did well behind the stumps.
Other promising batters included B. Sachin, Vimal Khumar, Boopathi Vaishnav Kumar, while left-arm pacer Gurjapneet Singh was impressive again this year.
With most of these players in their early 20s, Tamil Nadu could continue to be a force to reckon with in the white-ball format.
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