Saturday, March 2, 2024

SMAT 2021: Team of the Tournament

The twelfth edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy ended with Dinesh Karthik-led Tamil Nadu lifting their second title as they beat Baroda convincingly in the finals. The tournament saw a handful of players rising up to the occasion, making their cases stronger for the upcoming IPL auctions. A number of names quite unheard of before became household names, a few experienced campaigners raising their game to help their team and a few consistent players doing continuing their good work, the tournament turned out to be a successful one despite all the obstacles due to Covid-19.

While a lot of players impressed with their skill sets, temperament and determination, here we pick the best possible playing XI from the tournament, based on the team combination and how th players fit into the roles:

Openers: Avi Barot and Narayan Jagadeesan

The fact that the top 4 run-getters of the season are all openers indicates the fact that the tournament was dominated by a large extent by the openers and it was indeed difficult to narrow down to selecting just 2 openers. Kerala’s M Azharudeen lit up the tournament with a scintillating hundred but failed to remain consistent. Baroda’s stand-in skipper Kedar Devdhar, the second-highest run-getters was hugely impressive too. But Devdhar’s strike rate of 113.68 makes him a less likely candidate, while Barot pips him and Punjab’s Prabhsimran Singh, thanks to his superb strike rate of 184.96 and an average of 56.60. Narayan Jagadeesan the highest run-getter of the season with 364 runs at an average of 72.80 and strike rate of 141.08, walks in as the first-choice opener.

Middle Order: Prabhsimran Singh, Vishnu Solanki, Riyan Parag

Punjab’s wicket-keeper batsman Prabhsimran Singh had a dream run this season as he finished as the third highest run-getter, scoring 341 runs at an outstanding average of 85.25 and a strike rate of 142.08. Though he scored his runs as an opener, his performances were too good to be ignored and hence he walks in at number 3.

Baroda’s hero in the last-over drama in the quarter-finals and their top-scorer in an otherwise dismal final, Vishnu Solanki dons the number 4 position. Solanki, with 267 runs at an average of 53.40 and strike rate of 128.36, is the only non-opener among the top-five run-getters this season.

The Rajasthan Royals middle order batsman Riyan Parag was the standout performer for Assam. Despite his team having a forgettable tournament, Parag was phenomenal throughout the tournament, scoring 261 runs (6th highest) at an average of 87.00 and strike rate of 141.84. Having played the role of a finisher in IPL as well as for Assam, Riyan fits in perfectly as the floater in middle order. Add to it his decent leg-break bowling and livewire fielding, the youngster is a complete package.

Wicket-Keeper: Dinesh Karthik

The winning skipper Dinesh Karthik walks into the side as the skipper and the wicket-keeper, along with the thankless job of finishing which he played to perfection throughout the tournament. One of the finest finishers in limited overs cricket in India at present, Karthik scored 183 runs at an average of 61.00 and strike rate of 157.75.

All-rounder: Lalit Yadav

If there is one all-rounder who made an absolute impact, it has to be Delhi’s Lalit Yadav. The 24-year-old all-rounder was in destructive form with the bat, scoring 152 runs at a strike rate of 197.40, getting out only once in 5 innings. In the 77 balls he faced, Lalit hit 17 fours and 7 sixes. He not only added value with the bat in death overs, his tight bowling throughout the innings at an economy of 6.60. The all-rounder walks into the side for the number 7 spot, fitting in perfectly as the fifth bowler as well as the power-hitter down the order.

Bowlers: Lukman Meriwala, Siddharth Kaul, Ravi Bishnoi and Ashutosh Aman

One of the most impressive pacers in the tournament, Baroda’s Lukman Meriwala is one of the 2 pace bowlers in the XI. The 29-year-old left-arm pacer picked 15 wickets (second-most) at a strike rate of 12.2. One of the top 5 wicket-takers in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy till date, the experienced Meriwala had an impressive economy of 6.52 and also had a fifer under his belt.

Siddharth Kaul, Punjab’s death over specialist picked a wicket almost every 10 balls (9.85), and ended up with 14 wickets at an economy of 6.73 despite bowling at the most difficult phases of the innings. His spearheading the Punjab attack played a key role in taking Punjab to the semi-finals of the tournament. The other options include Avesh Khan, Ishan Porel, Chetan Sakariya and Darshan Nalkande, but Kaul’s experience and consistency gives him the edge.

Ravi Bishnoi, along with Rahul Chahar was one of the most impressive wrist spinners in the tournament. Bishnoi picked 11 wickets at a strike rate of 15.27 and an impressive economy of 5.75. One of the key reasons why Rajasthan managed to enter the semi-finals, Bishnoi walks into the side as the first-choice spinner. The former India U-19 is also a decent batsman and one of the best fielders in the side.

The toss-up for the second spinner was between Bihar’s skipper Ashutosh Aman and Tamil Nadu’s Sai Kishore. Though Sai Kishore had an enviable economy of 4.82 bowling in the powerplays, Ashutosh was a more of a wicket-taker, finishing as the highest wicket-take in the tournament (16) at a strike rate of 9.00. edges ahead of him. The left-arm orthodox spinner from Bihar was instrumental in taking his side through to the quarter-finals and hence walks in as the second spinner.

Best XI of the Tournament: Avi Barot, Narayan Jagadeesan, Prabhsimran Singh, Vishnu Solanki, Riyan Parag, Dinesh Karthik (wk) (c), Lalit Yadav, Ravi Bishnoi, Siddharth Kaul, Ashutosh Aman, Lukman Meriwala

Deepak Panda
Deepak Panda
Cricket Aficionado and Data freak, in love with the amalgamation of Data in the game of Cricket and having an impeccable zeal for inculcating statistical analysis in cricket. A business analyst by profession and a cricket analyst by passion, a believer that stats if used in the right way can provide immense amount of insights about the game and the players.
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