Surat: The spotlight would firmly be on the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and young Prithvi Shaw when the Super League stage of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 tournament begins in Surat on Thursday.
The focus will be on out-of-form opener Dhawan, who has not had a great run in recent times as well as Shaw, who recently returned to competitive cricket after serving an eight-month retrospective ban for a doping violation.
Dhawan is currently going through a rough patch. The Delhi left-handed batsman had scores of 0 (9) against Jammu and Kashmir, 9 (6) against Jharkhand, 19 (18) against Sikkim and 35 (33) against Odisha in the league stage of the national T20 championship and he would be more than keen to turn things around.
Another promising opener who would want to make most of the opportunity is Shaw, who returned with a bang from a doping ban, slamming a half-century against Assam in the last game of the league stage for Mumbai.
Twenty-year old Shaw will have to make optimum use of the Super League stage if he has to impress the national selectors and make a comeback to the national team.
In all probability, Shaw will open for Mumbai, replacing an in-form Jay Bista, with senior pro Aditya Tare.
His teammates and three India players — Shreyas Iyer, Shivam Dube and Shardul Thakur — also have an opportunity to cement their places in the Indian T20 squad for the West Indies series with good outings.
Spinner Yuzvendra Chahal had a decent outing for Haryana and he too would be keen to put up a good show with the ball.
Karnataka, who would be eager to defend their title, also have the likes of Manish Pandey and KL Rahul in their ranks.
In the last edition, Karnataka had defeated Maharashtra in the final. The Manish Pandey-led team had finished second behind Baroda in Group A and both the teams would be keen to carry forward the momentum in the tournament.
Maharashtra have shown that they are no push-overs, having topped Group C and the Surendra Bhave-coached outfit could also spring a surprise and go one step further than last season.
Mumbai have done well in the limited-overs format compared to the longer one and given their balanced squad, they are also in contention to win the trophy.
Tamil Nadu come into the Super League stage with five wins from six games in Group B and have a formidable team led by out-of-favour wicket-keeper Dinesh Karthik.
Having lost the Vijay Hazare Trophy (50 overs) final to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu will be gunning for glory in the T20 format and have the firepower in their squad to achieve the desired result.
Having said that the individual performances of players wouldn't immediately matter as the selectors are set to name the squad for upcoming T20 series against the West Indies in Kolkata on Thursday.
But a good Super League stage would do a world of good for them ahead of the IPL auction on 19 December in Kolkata.
It is also expected at least one of the five selectors would be in the western city for the tournament, and in all-likelihood it would be Jatin Paranjpe.
Teams Qualified: A1-Baroda, A2-Karnataka, B1-Tamil Nadu, B2-Rajasthan, C1-Maharashtra, C2-Punjab, D1-Mumbai, D2-Haryana, E1-Delhi, E2-Jharkhand.
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