The Tamil Nadu Premier League, following a season’s break and a postponement, is finally here, as newcomer Salem Spartans takes on Lyca Kovai Kings at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Monday.
All the matches will be played in Chennai, without spectators and the media as a precautionary measure in the times of COVID-19.
The TNPL has given a thrust to Tamil Nadu cricket and unearthed cricketers such pacer T. Natarajan and leg-spinner Varun Chakravarthy, who made it to the India squad.
Some players like N. Jagadeesan and Shahrukh Khan have found a place in the IPL, with Chennai Super Kings and Punjab Kings.
The feisty Natarajan went on to represent the country in all three formats. Sadly, the left-arm seamer will not be available for Lyca this season, tending to fitness concerns at NCA, Bengaluru.
Varun is with the Indian team in Sri Lanka and could join the competition in the later stages.
While Twenty20 cricket isn’t quite the best format to assess talent, a competition such as the TNPL, televised and watched by millions, does provide a platform for young talent and catapults them from obscurity to limelight.
Tamil Nadu coach for the past two seasons, D. Vasu, whose contract is up for renewal this season, believes the upcoming edition of TNPL will be crucial since it will provide the selectors an opportunity to assess cricketers and their form, ahead of the domestic season.
Coming to Monday’s contest, Lyca, featuring the buccaneering Shahrukh, will be without Natarajan but is pinning much of its bowling hopes on another left-arm seamer E. Srinivasan who was outstanding in TNCA’s second division.
With the lively K. Vignesh, and the combative pace bowling all-rounder Abhishek Tanwar, in its ranks, Lyca, even without Natarajan, has a useful seam attack.
With its star player Washington Sundar away in England, Salem will rely on pace bowling all-rounder Vijay Shankar, who is a heavy-hitter and a useful seamer.
The team possesses experienced stroke maker K. H. Gopinath, potent slinger G. Periyasamy and influential leg-spinner M. Ashwin.
It’s a pity, with former India opener M. Vijay’s sightings becoming increasingly rare and former India ‘A’ top-order batsman Anirudha Srikkanth having pulled out of this year’s edition.
For the others, it’s all to play for.
Play starts at 7.30 p.m.