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Tamil Nadu sent the highest number of players for the IPL auction conducted recently. Some thirty one players were on the block and 13 got the hammer. The total auction amount spent on TN players was a little less than Rs 40 crore.

Notable earners were Shah Rukh Khan – Rs 9cr. Washington Sundar – Rs 8.75 cr, Natarajan – Rs 4 Cr, Sai Kishore – Rs 3 cr, Murugan Ashwin – Rs 1.6cr, Hari Nishanth and N Jagadeesan – Rs 20L each and veterans such as Dinesh karthik – Rs 5.5cr, R Ashwin – Rs 5 cr.

The surge in the number of Tamil Nadu players with a national profile is largely thanks to TNPL which has widened its talent pool and drawn in cricketers who would have been outliers in the more traditional formats.

A cricketer’s progress in the past was possible either through the league or the Under 14, 16 and 19. In the TNCA league, most can aspire to go to Third Division but after that it’s a sweat. From the second division and above, the game is quite different. International players play in the first division, for instance. Corporate teams with a legacy dominate the higher levels. They employ high performing individuals who are also consistent. People who are wealthy or have wealthy parents to support are typically the ones who thrive in the TNCA (Tamil Nadu Cricket Association) league higher divisions.

Same is the case with the Under 14, 16 and 19 route. A wealthy parent must bankroll his son’s progress and that can be quite expensive. He should have the faith and confidence to back his son’s career choice.

But TNPL is a gamechanger. It has leveled the playing field literally, to an extent. It has opened avenues for local talent in small towns and villages to be exhibited and get noticed, and to even get picked for the IPL.

A cricketer’s progress in the past was possible either through the league or the Under 14, 16 and 19. In the TNCA league, most can aspire to go to Third Division but after that it’s a sweat. From the second division and above, the game is quite different. International players play in the first division, for instance.

Natarajan is probably the most famous player at the IPL to become prominent through this route. The challenges he faced and overcame are becoming an inspiration. Natarajan and his predecessor, Jayaprakash, have almost sparked the creation of a community of talented cricketers emerging from the village green.

In that line comes another fast bowler, Ganesan Periyasamy. He is also from Chinnapampatti in Tamil Nadu and is Malinga and Waqar Younis rolled into one, in terms of action. What is remarkable about Periyasamy, more than his family’s circumstances, is his impaired vision in the right eye. Despite this, he has all the facets of a fast bowler. Just like Natarajan, he is a Yorker specialist. Though he has not made it this IPL auction, we can certainly expect him to do well in future.

The new star from Tamil Nadu is Shahrukh Khan with IPL Team Punjab Kings buying him for some Rs 8 crore. A powerful hitter in the middle order, there are a few coming in at that position having the capability to win matches. Dinesh Karthik is another.

Made famous by a last ball win he scripted in the Syed Mustaq Ali tournament, Shahrukh Khan fills a niche. He has a good average in T20. His strike rate is good and is a finisher, much like Dhoni. There is talk that Dhoni wanted him in CSK.

Washington Sundar who came in through the juniors’ route was groomed by his coach father. Sundar also trained at the MRF Pace Foundation. He played for their first division team when he was barely 17 years old. By the time one reaches the first division, a player is most often at 25 years of age. So, Sundar was an exception.

Sundar and Rishabh Pant were discovered in the Under 16 World Cup. He had a memorable outing at Gabba. He is an extremely economical bowler. For RCB, he would bowl 4 overs, give away just 20 runs and take a couple of wickets. But he is injury prone.

Dhoni took him into the IPL Pune team that replaced CSK during the ban. His only minus, apparently, is that he has not been performing as well with the bat, barring the Gabba outing, though at the local level he is known as an all-rounder.

Sai Kishore is one talent who has not yet got the opportunity to shine. He is a tall left arm spinner, and a shoo-in as a result of his southpaw nature. Most right arm batsman find left arm bowlers just that little bit more difficult to handle than right arm bowlers.

A wealthy parent must bankroll his son’s progress and that can be quite expensive. He should have the faith and confidence to back his son’s career choice. But TNPL is a gamechanger. It has leveled the playing field literally, to an extent. It has opened avenues for local talent in small towns and villages to be exhibited and get noticed.

Sai Kishore has spent a lot of time on the CSK bench, waiting for the right opportunity while players like Jadeja have got a leg up.

Jagadeesan came in through the juniors’ route as well. A Coimbatore man, he is a wicketkeeper-batsman. His talent is not yet proven so he is a base price player. He was a good performer in the Tamil Nadu Premier League.

Varun Chakravarthy is the odd one out. An architect by profession, he was a fast bowler who left cricket convinced he didn’t have a future. But he came back as a mystery bowler and made a mark. A late bloomer at 30 years of age, Varun was born in Karnataka but grew up in Chennai. He has received much support and encouragement from Dinesh Karthik who got his team to pick him. Their chirping in Tamil to discuss strategy during matches was picked up by the stump mic and made them famous.

Hari Nishanth and Murugan Ashwin should be mentioned as prospects for the future. Murugan Ashwin has got many opportunities, but not Hari Nishanth. Murugan Ashwin lost out to Bishnoi who was among the wickets for Punjab Kings. He is a bit of a team hopper though.

Vijayshankar, who was bought by new team Gujarat for Rs 1.25 crore, has seen a slump in the last one-and-a-half years. An all-rounder who was in play before Hardik Pandya established himself, Vijayshankar does have a place in the state team. His being selected for the World Cup over Ambati Rayudu who made fun of him on Twitter made much news. But he couldn’t perform well in that World Cup and it seemed like Rayudu had been validated.

Dinesh Karthik who came in via the Under 19s is a senior like Dhoni. KKR dropped him as captain in favor of Eoin Morgan who took the team to the finals. But Morgan’s batting was not exceptional and KKR didn’t back him. Neither did they back Dinesh Karthik who has been picked by RCB. But KKR did repose their faith in Varun though they let go of Sunil Naraine.

(S Dinesh is a cricket analyst)


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