Welcome 2021 with SMA Trophy!
As the most stressful year of 2020 has been left behind, the long wait has finally ended and we are heading into a glorious and prosperous 2021. As many lost their dear ones to the dreadful pandemic, lost their livelihood, lost the spirit, and most notably lost some precious moments and events, the year had indeed acquired its fitting name as a ‘lost’ year. The cricketing fraternity had been so likely just to wait for the IPL and WTC to give fans some hope and entertainment. However, as the first domestic tournament after the pandemic starts on January 10th, the desi fans had to wait long until 2021 to see their local heroes take the centre stage. The Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy remains as a T20 tournament where 38 teams compete. This action packed domestic league would be the most sought after, particularly this year, as it would bring into the view of the nation some great local talents and increase their chances of featuring in the Ranji Trophy and the IPL. Many young Indian players will also seriously go under the radar, as the World T20 is lined up towards the end of 2021.
Let’s dive deep into some interesting and useful information about the series.
- Venues : The group stage matches are scheduled to be held in Bengaluru, Kolkata, Vadodara, Indore, Mumbai and Chennai and the knockout matches happen in the Motera Cricket Stadium, Ahmedabad. Players would remain under secure bio-bubble and constant testing for Covid-19 and precautionary measures would be mandated.
- Television Broadcasting : The Star Network (Star Sports 2 HD) will broadcast the matches in turns as almost 9-10 matches happen on each day and based on the Groups that contest on respective days. Also other streaming platforms like Disney+, Hotstar, FanCode, Airtel, and Jio would be handy to telecast the series.
- Groups : The teams are divided into 5 elite groups and 1 plate group. You can view the complete list of squads here.
Elite Group A (Bengaluru): J&K, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Railways, Tripura
Elite Group B (Kolkata): Odisha, Bengal, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Hyderabad
Elite Group C (Vadodara): Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Baroda, Uttarakhand
Elite Group D (Indore): Services, Saurashtra, Vidarbha, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Goa
Elite Group E (Mumbai): Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Mumbai, Kerala, Puducherry
Plate Group (Chennai): Chandigarh, Meghalaya, Bihar, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh
With many talented and aspiring players lined up to face each other in this exciting tournament, we have compiled a list of 11 players who would be most expected to perform in this series for various reasons.
- Sanju Samson : The dashing Kerala batsman has always managed to win hearts with this pleasing smile and brutal power-hitting. Samson has the attitude to get going from the word go and can easily turn the phase of the game in no time. However, his composure has been widely questioned as he tends to throw out his wickets in crunching situations. Although his talent has been proven, this series would be very important for him to prove his mettle and seal a spot in the Indian flight for World T20.
- Shikhar Dhawan : The ‘Gabbar’ has always been flying high and it was no different for him as he scored back to back 100s in the IPL 2020. His white ball game has always stood out and he remains the man for India when it comes to ICC series. But with other strong contenders knocking the door heavily in the likes of KL Rahul (and possibly Samson), the dancing Dilli boy must have a flamboyant series to mark his comeback strongly.
- Suresh Raina : Much speculations have been following this man ever since he followed his biggest admirer to take the biggest decision in his life. Pulling out from IPL 2020, unfollowing CSK’s twitter handle (although it was for a while only) had created a sense of tension amongst the fans who fondly call him ‘Chinna Thala’. However his recent activities like establishing his cricket academy in J&K to promote youth cricket showed that he was still attached with the game. His performance in this series would certainly clear the air amongst the audience and most likely make him don the ‘Yellove’ jersey.
- Suryakumar Yadav : If you have to name that one person who strives his skin off and continuously rises in all situations yet gets unnoticed in the eyes of the selector, this talented mumbaikar would be the one. His domestic records speak volumes of his talent and the way he played for his franchise teams in the IPL has certainly made him remarkable. He could potentially become the best number 4 batsman for India as he has the talent of accelerating as well as anchoring an innings. Your position is not too far my son!
- Ishan Kishan : This little pocket dynamite has never failed to impress when it comes to power hitting and fielding. His performances for his domestic side in the Ranji and Vijay Hazare trophies have been stellar and so was it for Mumbai Indians. With his wicket keeping abilities, he could potentially place a strong hold for the position of WK batsman in the Indian team which is currently lingering between KL Rahul, Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson. He can open as well as finish off the innings which adds more dynamics to the squad and this series would be enriching for him to nurture his skills better.
- Dinesh Karthik : The long time captain for Tamilnadu in domestic tournaments had finally gone on to captain an IPL team for 3 years. However, his form has consistently dropped, making him sidelined from the international team. Now that his domestic performances are also appalling, he should play for some serious redemption and make his side win the trophy this year and try to end his career on a high.
- Axar Patel : The southpaw came into lights firstly by bagging the emerging player of the tournament in the IPL 2014. However his international career has been topsy turvy and has seen him sit outside over the last 3 years. With much confidence, he rejuvenated well in the IPL 2020 and now has been handed the role to lead his team (Gujarat) having many other experienced players like Piyush Chawla, Priyank Panchal and Devang Gandhi.
- Bhuvneshwar Kumar : The swing king had his career drastically curtailed because of injuries. Had he been more fit, he would have been India’s prime bowler in overseas condition. His lengths and line have been impeccable as always. By making a strong comeback through the SMA trophy, he can join the Indian comrade to complete the lethal pace trio with Bumrah and Shami. Much onus about his future resides on this series and his subsequent performance in IPL 2021.
- Yuzvendra Chahal : The wizard remains to be in his prime form after a successful IPL and his super-sub performance in the T20I against Australia. His white ball cricket has always been a strength for India to continuously win limited over matches. This series would just be the best platform to correct his minor weaknesses and load his armour with more variations before the upcoming T20 world cup.
10. S Sreesanth : Life begins at 40 many say. For this man, it’s a second innings of his cricketing life that begins with this tournament. After coming out of a 7 year ban, Sreesanth still maintains his fitness and remains ambitious for making an international comeback. Sincerely hope his dreams do come true.
11. Arjun Tendulkar : A potential youth who could come under the radar this season would be little ‘Little Master’, Arjun Tendulkar. He has been totally opposite to his father – a left arm seam bowler as compared to right hand bat of Sachin. His underage performances have gained good attention for him but the brand that he carries with him would definitely ask him to perform way more than his potential. This series can be a gateway for him to step into the much respected Mumbai Ranji squad and slowly grow up the ranks. My personal choice to have a star-kid in the star studded squad.
- Sanju Samson
- Shikhar Dhawan
- Suresh Raina
- Suryakumar Yadav (C)
- Ishan Kishan
- Dinesh Karthik (WK)
- Axar Patel
- Bhuvneshwar Kumar
- Yuzvendra Chahal
- S Sreesanth
- Arjun Tendulkar
With many other national and domestic stars taking the center stage, the next 3 weeks would be no short of absolute entertainment. Do continue to support your love by expressing your views and follow us on Twitter for more such interesting writeups!