Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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With the IPL 2021 auction set for February 18, performances at the Syed Mushtaq Ali (SMA) Trophy assumed great significance. Here, we take a look at how a few prominent Indian players, who had been released by their respective franchises, performed in the tournament.
Four years ago, he was India's second triple centurion in Tests. Since then, his career has nosedived to the extent that there are murmurs over his place even in the Karnataka setup. At IPL 2020, he featured in just three games for the Kings XI Punjab, who had splurged good money for him in 2019. While Nair returned to lead Karnataka - for whom he last made a century in any format back in 2017-18 - six innings in various positions at SMA 2020-21 yielded just 93 runs. There is quality for sure, but the question is whether he can rejuvenate a career that is at a crossroads.
Once considered the ultimate utility cricketer, Jadhav was let go by the Chennai Super Kings after a poor IPL 2020 in which he made only 62 runs in five innings, his struggles to up the pace in the middle overs all too evident. With MS Dhoni not using him as a go-to bowler anymore, Jadhav's auction price of INR 7.8 crore may have gone against him. At SMA 2020-21, his team, Maharashtra, finished bottom of their group, managing just one win in five games. Jadhav, though, was among their brighter spots, making 193 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 132. His best, an unbeaten 45-ball 84 against Chhattisgarh in a chase of 192, took them to their only win of the competition.
Not too long ago, Dube was Hardik Pandya's like-for-like replacement, but impactful performances have been few and far between. He last played for India in February 2020. At the IPL, he was hardly used as a bowler and couldn't quite deliver the finishing kick with the bat. Having been signed for INR 5 crore, he has now been released by the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Among the senior players for Mumbai in a poor SMA 2020-21, where they lost all their five games, Dube top-scored with 161 runs in five innings, striking at 138.79; the numbers better than other established batsmen like Suryakumar Yadav, Aditya Tare, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Sarfaraz Khan. With the ball, he conceded runs at an economy of 7.50 in the 14 overs he delivered.
At INR 6.2 crore, Gowtham was among the more expensive Indian picks at the previous auction but one poor season with the Kings XI later, he is in search of a fourth franchise. Between being released and being back in the auction pool, Gowtham was called in as a reserve bowler for the Indian Test team for the home series against England. Prior to that, he featured in four SMA games for Karnataka, picking up four wickets with his fastish offspinners. His handy hitting lower down the order could yet make him a viable option for several franchises.
Two-time IPL winner and the third-highest wicket-taker in the tournament's history, Chawla could be on the lookout for a fourth IPL team, unless the Super Kings buy him back for a portion of his INR 6.75 crore price tag. He had a poor first season with the Super Kings, going at an economy of 9.09 and picking up just six wickets in seven matches. While Chawla last played for India in 2012, he's continued to be a regular in domestic cricket. A staple for Gujarat for the last three seasons, he picked up five wickets in as many matches with his legspin at an economy of 6.30 at SMA 2020-21.
One of Dhoni's trump cards during India's run to the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup, Sharma has been laid low by poor form and injuries since then. While he hasn't been an IPL regular, his appearances for Haryana in domestic cricket have dwindled too. He last featured in a competitive game 18 months prior to his lone appearance in IPL 2020. That one game for the Delhi Capitals, who signed him for INR 50 lakh, turned out to be uneventful - he went for 45 in four overs. The emergence of a gun pace attack consigned him to the bench after that. His form at SMA 2020-21 wasn't inspiring either, his two wickets in six games coming at an economy of 8.33 and average of 100.