Indore: Karnataka players pose with a trophy after wining the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy cricket tournament, in Indore, Thursday, March 14, 2019. (PTI Photo)
Indore: Karnataka players pose with a trophy after wining the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy cricket tournament, in Indore, Thursday, March 14, 2019. (PTI Photo)

India's domestic season is set to get underway on Sunday with the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The coronavirus pandemic has made the situation slightly more complex as players need to focus not only on their games, but also on bio-bubble protocols and safety regulations. But the T20 tournament will be the perfect opportunity for the young and fringe players to impress the national selectors with an eye on the 2021 T20 World Cup.

Coming to the format of the tournament, teams have been divided into six groups of which five come under Elite category and one under Plate category. The league stage matches will be played at Mumbai, Vadodara, Indore, Kolkata, Chennai, and Bengaluru and the knockouts will go ahead at the Motera Stadium, Ahmedabad.

Having had to delay the start of the domestic season due to the pandemic, the BCCI is staging the T20 tournament across six venues with bio-bubbles in place. The conduct of the tournament will go a long way in deciding not just whether more domestic competitions can be held this season, but also if the next edition of the Indian Premier League can be played in the country.

India's packed international calendar usually forces the big names to miss the tournament, but this time would be different as the likes of Shikhar Dhawan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma will be seen in action.

While Dhawan would look to keep his form going, Mumbai skipper Suryakumar Yadav will look to use the tournament to finally break into the national squad. He has been knocking on the doors of the selectors for some time now and another good tournament will definitely see him adding to the pressure.

There are some youngsters as well like Ruturaj Gaikwad, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Sarfaraz Khan, and Priyam Garg who would be looking to show their metal and it would be interesting to see them locking horns against experienced campaigners like Ishant and Bhuvneshwar among others.

Talking about experience, Kerela pacer S Sreesanth's return to the state team has hogged headlines going into the tournament and it will be interesting to see how he goes as the pacer is returning after serving a ban for his alleged involvement in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal. Bhuvneshwar has been named in the Uttar Pradesh team and he is making a comeback after getting injured during the IPL. The pacer would now be looking to prove his fitness to get selected for the upcoming series against England and the bowler would also look to make the T20 World Cup squad as a premier death over specialist.

Suresh Raina, who retired last year will also be seen in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy for Uttar Pradesh and he would like to get in the groove ahead of the upcoming IPL 2021.

Groups of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy are as follows:

Elite Group A: Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Railways, Tripura (Venue: Bengaluru)

Elite Group B: Odisha, Bengal, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Hyderabad (Venue: Kolkata)

Elite Group C: Gujarat, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Baroda, Uttarakhand (Venue: Vadodara)

Elite Group D: Services, Saurashtra, Vidarbha, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Goa (Venue: Indore)

Elite Group E: Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Mumbai, Kerala, Puducherry (Venue: Mumbai)

Plate Group: Chandigarh, Meghalaya, Bihar, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh (Venue: Chennai).

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