After much deliberation and delay, the Indian domestic season commences with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Twenty20 Trophy on Sunday. The group stages will be played in six cities, while the Motera Stadium (Ahmedabad) will host all the knockout fixtures.
With the IPL auction slated for February, it stood to reason that the T20 tournament was picked as the domestic lung opener ahead of the Vijay Hazare Trophy and the Ranji Trophy. Eager scouts from IPL teams will be in attendance, raising the stakes for players looking to hit the auction jackpot.
The Indian team players may be away in Australia, but the tournament is not short on quality talent. Devdutt Padikkal (Karnataka), Suryakumar Yadav (Mumbai), Ishan Kishan (Jharkhand), Abdul Samad (Jammu & Kashmir), Sanju Samson (Kerala) and Rahul Tewatia (Haryana) — standout performers in the recent IPL — will look to continue in the limelight.
Uttar Pradesh warhorse Suresh Raina, who missed the IPL, is set to play his first competitive match in nearly two years.
Kerala pacer S. Sreesanth, making a comeback after serving a seven-year suspension for his alleged involvement in the 2013 IPL corruption scandal, could count as the biggest draw of all.
Two-time defending champion Karnataka, crippled without the services of K.L. Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Manish Pandey, faces a stiff test from Uttar Pradesh and Punjab in Elite Group A.
Tamil Nadu, which fell short by one run in the final last year, boasts of an exciting prospect in G. Periyaswamy, whose slinging action and potent yorkers earned him high praise in the Tamil Nadu Premier League.
Eternal favourite Mumbai could go all the way, powered by match-winners in Suryakumar, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shivam Dube and Sarfaraz Khan. Left-arm pacer Arjun Tendulkar, the son of stalwart Sachin, makes his maiden appearance in the Mumbai senior squad.
With the mandatory quarantine completed, the players are primed to get down to business on the field.