The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT), which commences on Thursday, is timed perfectly to give cricketers the chance to grab the attention of IPL teams ahead of the mega auction.
The first tournament of the 2021-22 domestic calendar season features 38 teams, split into five Elite groups and one Plate group. Group matches will be held in six centres — Lucknow, Guwahati, Baroda, Delhi, Haryana and Vijayawada — while all knockout matches will be held at Delhi.
Standout performers in this 19-day tournament are sure to attract the attention of IPL scouts. Venkatesh Iyer (Madhya Pradesh and Kolkata Knight Riders), Shahrukh Khan (Tamil Nadu and Punjab Kings), Chetan Sakariya (Saurashtra and Rajasthan Royals) and Mohammed Azharuddeen (Kerala and Royal Challengers Bangalore) are some of the players who have used this tournament recently as a springboard to grab IPL contracts.
“This is a big platform, especially for the white-ball season coming up. There are a lot of things to look forward to with the big IPL auctions coming up. Everybody will be looking forward to doing well here and getting noticed by the IPL teams,” Karnataka captain Manish Pandey said.
Several names who shone bright in the recent IPL will be seen in action here. Orange Cap holder Ruturaj Gaikwad (Chennai Super Kings) and dashing wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson (Rajasthan Royals) lead Maharashtra and Kerala respectively, while Prithvi Shaw (Delhi Capitals and Mumbai) and Mayank Agarwal (Punjab Kings and Karnataka) will look to build on their fine IPL form.
Defending champion Tamil Nadu, placed in Elite-A at Lucknow, will miss the services of the Dinesh Karthik. All-rounder Vijay Shankar will lead the side in Karthik’s absence.
The tournament will serve as a memorial to Saurashtra cricketer Avi Barot, who passed away due to cardiac arrest last month at the age of 29.
Barot was brilliant in the previous edition of SMAT, scoring 283 runs at average of 56.6.