Tamil Nadu winning the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2021 (SMAT) might have hogged all the limelight, but with the Indian T20 League auction coming up in April, all eyes were set on unearthing the best T20 talents from the country.
SMAT has always been a breeding ground for young cricketers and this year’s edition was no different. From collective intelligence to individual brilliance, the tournament had it all. And now that several Indian T20 League franchises decided to release big names in order to load up the purse, there are high chances that the players from SMAT will land a lucrative Indian T20 League contract.
Here we look at five such players.
Shahrukh Khan - Tamil Nadu
Named after the famed Bollywood actor, Tamil Nadu's Shahrukh Khan may have gotten limited opportunities in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this year, but it is fair to say he capitalized on the given window with mere perfection. The 25-year-old showcased the hard-hitting prowess to mere perfection, especially in the final where he scored 18 off just seven balls. His highest score of the season, an unbeaten 40, came off 19 deliveries and that included five fours and two sixes. Arriving in the lower middle-order, Shahrukh Khan has shown the ability of going big, and this particular trait is exactly what can land him an Indian T20 League deal.
Mohammed Azharuddeen - Kerala
The emergence of a certain Mohammed Azharuddeen took the entire cricketing world by storm when the 22-year-old smashed an unbeaten 137 off just 54 balls in side’s eight-wicket win over Mumbai. He may have failed to jot down runs since, but his knock has rightly earned him the praise he deserves. In just five games during the tournament, Azharudeen scored 214 runs at an average of 53.50 and strike rate of 194.54. The 22-year-old smashed a total of 15 sixes during this tournament, and thus, could be a handy option for several Indian T20 League teams.
Lukman Meriwala - Baroda
The second-highest wicket-taker of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2021, Lukman Meriwala was an absolute revelation for Baroda throughout the tournament, picking 15 wickets in eight games while bowling at an impressive economy of 6.52. He is one of the five players in the competition who picked a five-fer this season. The 29-year-old, in fact, had a slow start to the tournament but bounced back by picking eight wickets in two games while giving away just 21 runs. One those innings included a glaring spell of 5/8 against Chhattisgarh. In the semi-final, he skimmed through Punjab’s top order to pick three for 28 as Baroda made their way into the final with a 25-run win.
Vishnu Solanki - Baroda
Another one of Baroda’s gems, 28-year-old Vishnu Solanki grabbed the limelight when he pulled off an MS Dhoni-esque helicopter shot in the ball to guide his team to the semi-final, beating Haryana in the quarterfinal. Baroda needed 15 runs off the final three balls, and Solanki stepped up to hit a six and a four before hitting the winning six to win the game in a dramatic fashion. Solanki was equally brilliant in the final. The 28-year-old scored 49 runs to take his team from 36 for 6 to a respectable total of 120 for 9 in 20 overs.
Solanki might come handy for those Indian T20 League teams who are looking for a top-order scorcher.
Jalaj Saxena - Kerala
Kerala's Jalaj Saxena may very well be on the wrong side of 30s, but his exploits in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy cannot go unnoticed. The off-spinner has had a turbulent Indian T20 League career so far, having been a part of team Mumbai, team Bangalore and team Delhi, but he failed to get into the starting XI before being released ahead of last year's edition. The 34-year-old was Kerala's top wicket-taker in SMAT this year with 10 scalps in just five appearances. He was in mostly called into action during the middle overs and did manage to end the tournament with an economy of less than seven. With plenty of experience under his sleeves, Saxena might land a lucrative deal ahead of the Indian T20 League 2021.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @BCCIdomestic