Over the years, the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, India's domestic T20 competition, has helped identify several promising players who have gone on to play in the IPL. As scouts from across teams make a beeline for the seven venues to look out for players, here's a list of those who could usher in the next chapter of their professional careers over the next three weeks.
Mukesh Kumar, Bengal
When Mukesh Kumar came into the Bengal set-up from Bihar - his home state - in 2014, doctors pronounced him anemic. He would bowl a few overs with intensity and then get tired. He would play one game and miss three. It was the story of his first season as a Bengal cricketer trying to break into the domestic setup there. He was later diagnosed with bone edema - accumulation of fluids - in his knees. Over time, he has gained considerable strength and has become part of an impressive Bengal pace attack also consisting of Akash Deep
and Ishan Porel
Mukesh had a prolific maiden stint with India A against the visiting New Zealanders just last month, where he was the joint-highest wicket-taker
in the three red-ball games. He is currently part of India's Shikhar Dhawan-led ODI squad taking on South Africa at home. That he has gotten this far without featuring in the IPL makes it an unreal rise.
Mukesh is known for his robotic control - of the kind Josh Hazlewood is known for - hitting good lengths and deceiving batters with minute deviation off the deck. He was called up by Royal Challengers as a net bowler last year but missed out due to Covid-19. A good tournament here could well put him on the road to the IPL in 2023.
Mujtaba Yousuf, Jammu & Kashmir
A tall left-arm seamer with a strapping action, Yousuf can dart the ball both ways and bowls in the high 130s. He's also known to have excellent slower variations and cutters. In 14 T20s so far for Jammu & Kashmir, he has picked up 13 wickets at an economy of 7.38. Two years ago, he broke through during the course of a memorable first-class season with Jammu & Kashmir made the Ranji Trophy knockouts.
As a package, he has impressed Irfan Pathan, the former India allrounder, who worked as a mentor for J&K two years ago. In 2021, he was part of the Kolkata Knight Riders as a net bowler. Earlier this year, he was with Royal Challengers Bangalore. A good SMA T20 could well see him join his state-mates Abdul Samad
and Umran Malik
in the IPL club.
Raj Bawa, Chandigarh
Pace-bowling allrounders are rare - even more so in India - which is why when Raj Bawa first made a mark at this year's Under-19 World Cup during the course of a title-winning campaign, he made heads turn with bat and ball. Bawa offers bristling pace with his skiddy action and is known for his six-hitting with the bat.
At the Under-19 World Cup in the Caribbean, he hit the high notes with his five-for in the final that subdued England
. He was also one of only eight batters who made over 250 runs in the tournament, 162 of those coming in a single knock against Uganda
A maiden IPL call-up came his way when Punjab Kings signed him at the auction, but opportunities have been far and few. It's perhaps a mark of his talent and ability that the selectors fast-tracked him into the India A white-ball squad for the three one-dayers against New Zealand A. He performed well, picking up five wickets in two games
, including a best of 4 for 11 in the third one-layer
LR Chethan, Karnataka
If the Karnataka selectors are daring to look beyond established veterans like Karun Nair, it's because the younger crop - including LR Chethan - have made a beeline for selection through their exploits. Chethan's explosive batting up top in the Maharaja T20 Cup helped lead his team, Bengaluru Blasters, to the final
He ended the tournament with 447 runs in 12 innings, the second-most in the tournament
after Mayank Agarwal
, at a strike rate of 173.25. He hit one century and three half-centuries; struck 40 fours and 26 sixes, the second-most in the season. Based on those performances, he has already been called up for trials by at least two teams during the off-season and a good performance in his maiden Syed Mushtaq Ali tournament could well fast-track his IPL dream.
Yash Dhull, Delhi
India's Under-19 World Cup winning captain from 2022 is part of Delhi Capitals, but in his maiden season, he had to watch from the sidelines. However, if he continues to rack up runs like he has across formats, it's unlikely things will remain that way in the IPL for long. He has made heads turn with his calmness and strokemaking and has struck hundreds on debut in both the Ranji Trophy
and Duleep Trophy
. He's racked up 783 runs in eleven first-class innings, including four centuries and a best of 200 not out.
At Capitals, the presence of a packed top order comprising Prithvi Shaw, David Warner, Mitch Marsh and Rishabh Pant meant opportunities were barely available. That said, a big domestic T20 tournament could further enhance his white-ball credentials and put him in the fray, at least as a back-up batting option. He is uncapped in the white-ball format, but has an opportunity to make a name for himself in a strong batting order consisting of the likes of Nitish Rana, Anuj Rawat, Ayush Badoni and Lalit Yadav, all of whom have taken the long route to the IPL.