TNPL: A potential launchpad for IPL

Impressive performances in the Tamil Nadu Premier League could fetch players Indian Premier League deals, as Washington Sundar found out last season.

Washington Sundar... “There is pressure, but no added pressure [with the IPL spotlight].”   -  Vivek Bendre

Washington Sundar’s off-spin was one of the important factors in Albert TUTI Patriots’ title triumph in the inaugural Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL) in 2016. Impressed by the 17-year-old, Rising Pune Supergiant (RPSG) picked him in its Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign this year. The pressure of bowling to better batsmen on a bigger stage didn’t seem to affect the teenaged twirler - he ended up as the team’s most economical bowler in the season.

Washington’s team-mates and opponents in this year’s TNPL would be aware that good performances would fetch them lucrative opportunities.

Busy preparing for the league’s second edition, which begins on Saturday, Washington says he learnt a lot from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Steve Smith in the RPSG dressing room. The IPL spotlight, however, doesn’t bother him, he says. “There is no pressure. I know what I did to perform well and what it takes for me to do well. If I could repeat those things in whatever matches I get, I know I can do well. There is pressure, but no added pressure.”

Murugan Ashwin, another Tamil Nadu spinner who made it to the IPL (in 2016), says, performing well under pressure would improve a player’s IPL prospects. “If you’re able to control a batsman like Suresh Raina, that’s what the (IPL) scouts look for,” says the Dindigul Dragons bowler.

‘One bad day’

Chepauk Super Gillies coach Hemang Badani feels players from small towns of Tamil Nadu could feature in the IPL if TNPL includes more venues from the state. A 122-run defeat in last year’s final to TUTI Patriots must have hurt the Super Gillies. But Badani says it was easy to get over it. “Had we lost closely, it would have been difficult. But we knew we just didn’t play to our ability and put our best effort on that day. It was one bad day.”

The team, he says, is focussed on improving this year. So is the Baba Aparajith-led VB Thiruvallur Veerans. But it will miss the mentorship of Bharat Arun, who’s become the bowling coach of India. “I think we can't replace a coach like Bharat Arun. We have with us Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) Sir (mentor) and V. B. Chandrasekhar (owner). Their experience will help us,” says Aparajith.

Aparajith, too, agrees that TNPL is a platform to enter the IPL. “(IPL) teams will be watching us. If you perform well, they might pick you. It’s an opportunity to prove yourself as a T20 cricketer.”

TNPL, he says, prepares local players for IPL. “Here, players (from small towns) get to play under lights, in front of large crowds. So, they are well-equipped to face the conditions they would get in IPL.”