With the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20s behind us, the focus shifts to the 50-overs format as the Vijay Hazare Trophy begins on November 12. Compelling performances here will help players make a case for themselves for higher honours. That can be in the form of a call-up to India A, an IPL contract, or even the doorstep of the national team. Here's a look at six players for whom the upcoming tournament could have a massive bearing on their immediate future.
Ishant Sharma (Delhi)
With the national selectors leaning towards Prasidh Krishna as a tall, hit-the-deck option, it seems like Ishant Sharma
is no longer part of India's Test set-up. He was also unsold at the IPL 2022 auction, but that hasn't dimmed his enthusiasm to play domestic cricket.
Ishant fared decently in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy this year, picking up five wickets in four matches
at an economy rate of 6.60. He has even added the knuckle ball to his repertoire. But if he is to force his way back into the IPL, he needs to back up his numbers in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy with stronger performances in the Vijay Hazare Trophy. The Vijay Hazare Trophy games will be his first in List A cricket in more than four years.
M Shahrukh Khan (Tamil Nadu)
M Shahrukh Khan
triggered a bidding war for a second successive auction in February earlier this year, but in IPL 2022, he managed only 117 runs in eight innings
at a strike rate of less than 110. Midway through the season, he was relegated to the bench, with Jitesh Sharma taking over the role of the finisher. Shahrukh's form was also patchy in the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, where he scored 45 runs in five innings
at a strike rate of 93.75. The pitches in Lucknow weren't conducive to strokeplay and with Dinesh Karthik also away on national duty, Tamil Nadu, who began the tournament as defending champions, failed to make it out of the first round.
Shahrukh, though, hit form in the one-dayers against a touring Bangladesh side that featured a number of international players at Chepauk, in the lead-up to the Vijay Hazare Trophy. In the second one-dayer, Shahrukh muscled his way to a 69-ball century and was particularly fluent against the left-arm fingerspin of Taijul Islam. If Shahrukh can keep up his form in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, he can potentially create another stir at the upcoming auction if Punjab Kings release him. He has also been working on his secondary skill - offspin - and fronted up to bowl regularly in the TNPL and against the Bangladeshis.
Devdutt Padikkal (Karnataka)
After being almost unstoppable in his first two domestic seasons, Devdutt Padikkal
's stocks have somewhat dipped. From being talked of as a fast-track material for the opening slot in the national team, he has fallen out of favour even as far as selection for India A goes.
As a T20 batter, Padikkal's biggest drawback has been his inability to ace the middle-overs game. With Rajasthan Royals using Yashasvi Jaiswal to partner Jos Buttler at the top, Padikkal had to largely bat at No. 4. Whether that's a formula they will continue with in 2023 remains to be seen, and if they don't, Padikkal will need runs under his belt to once again elicit bidding wars at the auction.
There's another issue. For Karnataka, Padikkal is largely an opener. And in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he let scouts take note with a bruising, unbeaten 62-ball 124 against Maharashtra
, but that was his only substantial score in the tournament. He will want to finish with better returns in the 50-over format, not least because the selectors will now turn their eye towards creating a pool of players for next year's ODI World Cup. With Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul and Ruturaj Gaikwad all competing for slots, Padikkal needs a standout season to come into the selection radar.
Shaik Rasheed (Andhra)
A steady batter who hails from Guntur, Shaik Rasheed
was not part of the IPL 2022 auction. He made his first-class debut just days after the auction in February and five months later emerged as one of the highest scorers in the 20-over Andhra Premier League, with 159 runs in five innings at a strike rate of 121.37.
After having missed the early exchanges of the 2021 Under-19 World Cup with Covid-19, he stepped up brilliantly in the semi-final and final with scores of 94 and 50 respectively. The 18-year-old can also pitch in with some legspin, and the Vijay Hazare Trophy will offer him another chance to showcase his skills at a higher level.
Prerak Mankad (Saurashtra)
Seam-bowling allrounders in India are rare. Beyond Hardik Pandya, you would struggle to find many who can bowl upwards of 130 and hit the long ball. Worry not, Saurashtra have been grooming one for a few years now. At 28, Prerak Mankad
is seven years into his domestic cricket career and perhaps nearing his peak as an allrounder.
He showed glimpses of his power-hitting skills at the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy by smashing an unbeaten 25-ball 61
against Mumbai to keep Saurashtra in the hunt for the semi-finals. With the ball, he can hustle batters, as well as deceive them with his slower ones. But given his skills, he would have hoped for a better outing
in the tournament.
It is these all-round qualities that made Punjab Kings bid for him at the 2022 auction, but game-time remained elusive. But under a new captain, Shikhar Dhawan, and a new coach, Trevor Bayliss, Mankad will have an opportunity to firmly be in the team's plans should he have a terrific 50-overs tournament to make up for his misses at the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
Yash Thakur (Vidarbha)
In the same boat as Yash Dayal and Mohsin Khan is Vidarbha's Yash Thakur
. Except, he is a right-arm quick capable of bowling in the early 140s and can move the ball around both ways. And his numbers at the T20 level are superb. In 37 T20s, He has 55 wickets at an economy of 6.68. Thakur is coming off a stunning Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, having picked up 15 wickets in ten games
at an economy of 7.17.
His biggest strength is adaptability. Having started as a new ball bowler, he is working his way up to be a designated death bowler. Thakur's emergence has given Vidarbha's pace stocks a much-needed lift, especially with Umesh Yadav away for long periods on national duty and Rajneesh Gurbani falling away after a swift rise. Thakur had had multiple IPL stints as a net bowler and was most recently part of Punjab Kings contingent.