After weeks of Brobdingnagian sixes, whirlwind knocks, hattricks, five-wickets in an over, one-sided encounters, a plethora of humdingers and some damp squibs, we finally have a winner in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy 2019-20 season. In what turned to be a match fitting of a T20 final, defending champions Karnataka held their nerves in the closing moments to notch up a one-wicket win over 2006-07 champions Tamil Nadu.
Karnataka became the first side to successfully defend the title in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. And, just like the final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Tamil Nadu had to face the ignominy of finishing as the second-best side of the tournament. So, with the tournament done and dusted, we have picked the best XI of the competition.
Here’s the best XI:
Devdutt Padikkal (Karnataka)
Another southpaw from India who just looks like a million dollars whenever he nonchalantly flicks the ball off his legs or when he cuts or goes downtown. Another batting run-machine from India- Devdutt Padikkal, 19, broke a plethora of records during his marathon season.
The swashbuckling Karnataka opener became the first player to complete 1000 runs across formats in the 2019-20 domestic season. After having topped the batting charts in the recently concluded Vijay Hazare Trophy (609 runs in 11 innings), Padikkal proceeded to bulldoze domestic bowling attacks to all corners of the ground, smoking 548 runs in 11 games at an average of 64.44 and at a gobsmacking strike-rate of 175.76- also the best in the tournament.
Padikkal’s whirlwind 87 to help Karnataka scale down 8-194 in a mere 15 overs and his partnership with KL Rahul at the top of the order emerged as one of the cornerstones for his sides’ eventual title-winning heist.
KL Rahul (WK) (Karnataka)
Two months ago, KL Rahul was in absolute tatters. His Test match form had hit a nadir. Fans were calling for his axe while pundits and former cricketers opined that the Karnataka batsman should go back to domestic cricket and regain his touch and he did exactly the same
Rahul regained his form as well as his confidence to emerge as the cornerstone of his sides’ title-winning heist in both Vijay Hazare Trophy and the just-concluded Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament. Rahul emerged as the third-highest leading scorer in VHT where he scored 598 runs in 11 innings at an average of 66.4.
And, he continued with the same in the T20 tournament. In eight innings, Rahul racked up 313 runs at an average of 52.16 and a strike-rate of 155.72 with the help of three half-centuries. Another thing that was pretty evident from the tournament was Rahul’s emergence as a safe wicket-keeping option in the shortest format of the game.
Harshal Patel (Haryana)
If you have a player in your side who can consistently score with the bat while at the same time also has the ability of being no mug with the ball and can consistently give you four overs every single game, then that guy becomes the MVP of the side. He gives your side a balance and when on-song can win you games with either of the facets of the game- bat or ball.
Haryana had a great run in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, one that ended with a semi-final defeat to eventual champions Karnataka. And, one of the prime reasons for it was the all-round display by Harshal Patel. The Gujarat-born all-rounder finished as the leading run-scorer for Haryana where he accumulated 374 runs at an average of 31.16 and a strike-rate of 165.48.
He wasn’t a mug with the bowl either. Harshal Patel was also the leading wicket-taker for Haryana, claiming 19 wickets at an average of 15.94 and a strike-rate of 13.5. His best performance came against Meghalaya where he racked up a whirlwind 82 off 40 balls to lift his teams’ total to 6-202 and backed it up with a three-wicket-haul (3-22).
Manish Pandey (C) (Karnataka)
He may have underperformed as far as his international career is concerned but it is fair to say that Manish Pandey is one of the stalwarts when it comes to domestic cricket; an absolute beast who churns out truckloads of runs match-after-match.
Pandey had another stellar competition with the bat. The right-hander racked up 314 runs in nine games at an average of 78.50 and strike-rate of 164.39 with the help of two half-centuries and a whirlwind hundred. Pandey possibly played the most crucial innings of his campaign in the finals against Tamil Nadu where his counter-attacking 60* (45 balls) paved way for Karnataka to score an eventual match-winning total of 180.
But, it was not only his batting that stood out but also his captaincy and his cool-and-calm demeanour. The Karnataka captain led from the front, not only with the bat but also in the field when he affected a crucial run-out of Vijay Shankar in the final over. No wonder he leads this side as well.
Suryakumar Yadav (Mumbai)
81*, 20*, 57, 22, 28, 10, 94* and 80. 392 runs at an average of 56 and a strike-rate of 169. The only batsman to score 350+ runs in two consecutive seasons of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, that too at a strike-rate of 140+. It is fair to say that Mumbai’s Suryakumar Yadav is at the peak of his powers in the shortest format of the game.
Yadav joined the elite list of Indian cricketers to rack up a minimum of 300 runs in an edition of SMAT at an average of 50+ (56) and a strike-rate of more than 150 (168.96). He is also one of the four Indian batsmen after Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Rishabh Pant to score 1000+ runs (1176 runs in 37 games in 2019) at an average in excess of 40 and a strike-rate of 145+.
No wonder, there were calls for him to be picked in the Indian team ahead of the T20 World Cup next year. With him making consistent contributions, the call-up might be just a few matches away as the Men in Blue are set to play a lot of matches in the near future.
Rohan Kadam (Karnataka)
Such was the dominance of Karnataka’s batsmen in Devdutt Padikkal, KL Rahul and Manish Pandey, that you can be excused somewhat for not talking much about Rohan Kadam. But, that didn’t let him not do what he has been doing for consecutive seasons now: score a lot of runs at a whirlwind pace.
Kadam was the leading run-scorer in Karnataka’s title-winning heist last season. The swashbuckling batsman racked up 536 runs in 12 innings at a strike-rate of close to 130. But, unfortunately for Kadam, the tournament was held after the IPL auction which meant there was no talent scout to look at the right-hander’s exploits.
So, what does Rohan do? He decided to do it all over again. Kadam emerged as the bedrock of Karnataka’s middle-order and in 7 innings, amassed 258 runs at an average of 43 and a strike-rate of 131.63 with the help of three half-centuries. Kadam scored a crucial 35 off 28 balls in the final where he stroked some lusty blows to take the pressure off Pandey at the other end. So, IPL scouts, are you watching? There is a run-machine here who deserves to get an IPL ticket.
Washington Sundar (Tamil Nadu)
Washington Sundar’s batting skills are highly underrated. But he pulled off his ‘swashbuckling batsman’ moniker and emerged as one of the leading run-scores for his side in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this season.
Just like Dinesh Karthik promotes Sunil Narine at the top of the order for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, the Tamil Nadu captain did the same with Washington Sundar in SMAT20 this season. And, the left-hander responded with disdain. The left-handed batsman consistently played some whirlwind innings at the top of the order, allowing his more-established batsmen to take over in the middle-overs.
In nine innings, Sundar scored 271 runs at an average of 54.20 and a strike-rate of 128.43 with the help of a half-century. With the ball too, Sundar kept it really tight, conceding just 4.93 runs/over besides taking six wickets at an average of 23.83.
Deepak Chahar (Rajasthan)
Deepak Chahar‘s stupendous Twenty20 International form- one that was accentuated to the hilt when he claimed the hattrick and registered the best-ever figures in T20Is (6-7) against Bangladesh- continued in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as well.
In fact, he very nearly notched up another hattrick when he claimed back-to-back wickets against Vidarbha. The right-hander claimed four wickets in the final over with three of them coming off the last three deliveries, but for a wide that he bowled during the hattrick ball. And, secondly when he claimed back-to-back wickets against Uttar Pradesh.
With the bat too, Chahar played a crucial knock when he scored a whirlwind 55 off 42 balls- a knock that included seven Brobdingnagian sixes; one that helped Rajasthan to notch-up a two-run win over Delhi. Overall, Chahar claimed 12 wickets in seven games at an average of 13.25 and a strike-rate of 11.5 which also included a four-wicket-haul against Vidarbha.
Ravisrinivasan Sai Kishore (Tamil Nadu)
12 innings. 20 wickets. Average 10.40 and an economy of 4.63 with a four-wicket haul and a strike-rate of 13.4. Finger spinner. Doesn’t that sound overwhelming? Considering the fact that these are the figures of a left-arm finger spinner in a T20 tournament against the best domestic batsmen of the country?
It truly does and Tamil Nadu’s Sai Kishore is steadily making a habit of it. Sai Kishore, who was a part of a Tamil Nadu side which won both the Vijay Hazare and Deodhar titles in 2016-17, emerged as the cornerstone of his sides’ imperious campaign, one that ended in a heart wrenching one-run loss in the finals ahead of the more-experienced teammates in Washington Sundar, and finished as the leading wicket-taker of the tournament.
Surprisingly, he bowled only a solitary over in the final. But that doesn’t take away his exceptional performances throughout the season. Surely, he is expected to get a bid in the upcoming IPL auction.
Shreyas Gopal (Karnataka)
A right-arm leg-spinner who has carved out his niche by bamboozling stalwarts like Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, and others in the Indian Premier League for the Rajasthan Royals, Karnataka’s Shreyas Gopal once again had a stellar Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy.
With 19 wickets in 12 matches at an average of 15 and a strike-rate of 13.2, Gopal emerged as the bedrock of Karnataka’s bowling unit. The right-hander’s best performance came against Services where he ran through their batting to notch up a five-wicket haul (5-19) after the eventual champions posted a commanding 3-250 in 20 overs.
Gopal has backed up a good IPL season with stellar numbers in the domestic cricket now and his performances must be definitely giving a headache to the selectors.
T Natarajan (Tamil Nadu)
While Murugan Ashwin, Sai Kishore, and Washington Sundar ruled the roost as far as the spin bowling department was concerned, T Natarajan- left-arm fast bowler- emerged as the fast bowling spearhead for the eventual runners-up, Tamil Nadu.
The left-handed Natarajan claimed 13 wickets in 11 innings at an average of 16.84 and a strike-rate of 17.3 and impressed one and all with his immaculate lengths and discipline. Natarajan’s best individual performance came during Tamil Nadu’s eight-wicket shellacking of Tripura where he (4-1-4-3) along with off-spinner Sai Kishore who claimed 4-6 in four overs, to restrict the opposition to 8-79 after 20 overs.
Natarajan is yet to transform his domestic form into the IPL and he will be keen to do it this season with his franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH).
Lukman Meriwala (Baroda) (12th man)
If Baroda had such an imperious run in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, one of the major reasons for it to happen was the form of left-arm fast bowler Lukman Meriwala. Apart from the usual suspects in Aditya Waghmode (364 runs at 45.5), Kedar Devdhar (356 runs at 39.55), Deepak Hooda (228 runs at 25), who spearheaded Baroda’s campaign with the bat, it was Lukman Meriwala’s exploits with the ball that played a pivotal role.
And, the fact that Baroda struggled in the absence of Meriwala, the aforementioned fact was testified to the core. In seven games, Meriwala claimed sixteen wickets at an average of 10.68 and an economy of 6.33 which also included a five-wicket haul.
Meriwala’s best performance came against eventual champions Karnataka when his 5-21 helped Baroda successfully defend their total of 196.
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