No franchise had as many players of theirs feature in the 2021 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as Sunrisers Hyderabad (12) and a laudable 8 of those walked out of the competition as more confident individuals. That was not, however, the case with RCB, whose 4 players had a fortnight to forget.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar – 4 wickets in 4 innings @ ER 5.80
After hobbling off four games into IPL 2020, Bhuvneshwar Kumar lived up to his reputation in SMAT 2020/21, delivering the goods for U.P. Bhuvi picked up an exquisite three-wicket haul in the very first game post his comeback, and, remarkably, finished his SMAT campaign not conceding over 22 runs in any of the four games he featured in. If SMAT 2020/21 was a test of his form and fitness, Bhuvneshwar passed it with flying colours.
Vijay Shankar – ruled out with injury
Unlike Bhuvi, Vijay Shankar failed his fitness test. After leaving the IPL mid-way after blowing his hamstring, Shankar, yet again, broke down mid-match, this time in the very first game of the season, whilst bowling. The all-rounder took no further part in the competition post the first game, where he scored 4 runs with the bat.
Virat Singh – 250 runs in 5 innings @ average 62.50 and SR 150.60
After being benched by SRH for the entirety of the IPL 2020 campaign, Virat Singh batted like a man with a point to prove and, well, pretty much ended up proving his point by the time Jharkhand were knocked out. The southpaw finished the season as the sixth-highest run-getter, and played back-to-back-to-back impactful knocks, the best of which was his ton versus Assam. In case SRH had any apprehensions about his ball-striking ability, Virat Singh, through his display in SMAT 2020/21, buried it.
Abhishek Sharma – 206 runs in 7 innings @ average 34.33 and SR 127.95
Prabhsimran’s partner-in-crime at the top of the order, Abhishek Sharma threatened to have a breakthrough season, but, unfortunately, fizzled out as the season progressed. After amassing 197 runs in the first four matches – including a century versus Railways – the southpaw ended the tournament with scores of 0, 4, and 5, with his technique and temperament getting exposed. SRH would be delighted with the opportunity Abhishek got up top, but what would irk them, however, is him not bowling a single ball all season.
Shahbaz Nadeem – 2 wickets in 5 innings @ ER 6.93
Shahbaz Nadeem did not quite strike as often as he would have liked, yet the veteran was disciplined as ever with the ball. Through his ER of 6.93, Nadeem did a fine holding job for the seamers, but ultimately his efforts went in vain owing to the ineptitude of the batsmen, whose dire performances in the first half of the campaign cost Jharkhand a place in the knockouts.
Shreevats Goswami – 158 runs in 5 innings @ average 39.50 and SR 132.77
With 158 runs, Shreevats Goswami finished as Bengal’s second-highest run-getter, yet the veteran was guilty of not doing enough. A match-winning 69* versus Hyderabad bolstered Goswami’s numbers, but on three separate occasions he was guilty of reaching the 20s and throwing away a start. Vivek Singh brought some much-needed firepower to Bengal’s batting, but Goswami ultimately let the side down by not being prolific.
Abdul Samad – 140 runs in 4 innings @ average 46.66 and SR 148.93
The find of the season in IPL 2020, Abdul Samad was every bit as entertaining and efficient in SMAT 2020/21. The youngster took to his new-found role of #3 like fish to water and plundered important runs throughout the season. There were not as many sixes from Samad’s bat as one would have come to expect – just 10 – but the 19-year-old showcased maturity that would have made his mentor Irfan Pathan – and certainly the SRH management – proud.
Priyam Garg – 57 runs in 4 innings @ average 14.25 and SR 83.82
Tasked with the double duty of captaincy and holding together the middle-order, young Priyam Garg flunked in both. Batting predominantly at No.4 in the campaign, Garg did not, at any point, find his rhythm, and remarkably ended up striking just 3 boundaries all season. Whether he broke down with the bat due to the burden of the captaincy of it was the other way around remains to be seen, but Garg endured the worst season imaginable, leading U.P to a second-to-bottom finish whilst averaging 14.25, despite boasting of a relatively strong line-up.
Khaleel Ahmed – 1 wicket in 7 innings @ ER 8.00
In a season that saw Rajasthan bulldoze their way to the semis, Khaleel Ahmed was a mere pedestrian. Despite playing 7 matches, the left-armer picked up a solitary wicket – that of Goa tail-ender Darshan Misal – and provided no potency with the new-ball. On more than one occasion Khaleel was let down by sloppy fielding, yet the speedster simply did not bring the same edge to his bowling as, say, an Aniket Choudhary did.
Basil Thampi – 0 wickets in 4 innings @ ER 9.32
Thampi, like Khaleel, was a huge letdown. Retained by SRH for his ability to nail yorkers, the Kerala speedster was erratic from start to finish for his side and was a mere shadow of his younger, more confident self which burst into the scene three years ago. That he was outbowled by a 37-year-old Sreesanth should tell you everything you need to know.
Sandeep Sharma – 6 wickets in 7 innings @ ER 6.35
Sandeep Sharma, uncharacteristically, ended up averaging less than a wicket per match, but he was a vital cog in the Punjab attack that did not put a foot wrong all tournament. Bowling both with the new cherry and at the back end, Sandeep was miserly in all but one game, versus J&K, where he was off colour. What the 27-year-old showed was immense maturity and understanding of his own game, which, in turn, enabled him to operate efficiently.
Siddarth Kaul – 14 wickets in 6 innings @ ER 6.73
The biggest redemption story in SMAT 2020/21 came in the form of Sid Kaul. Restricted to just one IPL game last season, in which he conceded 64 runs, Kaul finished as the third-highest wicket-taker in the tournament. Throughout the competition, the 30-year-old led the Punjab pace attack from the front and provided timely and important breakthroughs for his side all through the season. Sid Kaul will not just go away, and this is something that would delight the SRH management, with them having retained him ahead of IPL 2021.
Manish Pandey subsequently missed the 2020/21 SMAT owing to injury.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
Devdutt Padikkal – 218 runs in 6 innings at average 43.00 and SR 134.56
Barring a swashbuckling unbeaten 99 versus Tripura, Devdutt Padikkal, it has to be said, had a season to forget. After topping the run-charts in 2019 and after winning the ‘Emerging Player’ award in IPL 2020, the southpaw did not light up the competition and was unusually scratchy and fidgety throughout the course of his campaign. Only in 2 of his 7 knocks did the youngster maintain an SR above 120. His underwhelming form was a microcosm of Karnataka’s troubles, which saw the defending champions get humiliated in the quarter-final in what turned out to be a horror campaign.
Yuzvendra Chahal – 5 wickets in 6 innings @ ER 7.66
By his own elite standards, Yuzvendra Chahal had a mixed season. Barring one bad game versus Puducherry, the leg-spinner was fairly consistent throughout the season, but, at the same time, failed to provide timely breakthroughs which we are accustomed to seeing him doing. At times – in fact, most of the time – he was outbowled by both Jayant Yadav and Rahul Tewatia. That said, though, Chahal was Haryana’s best bowler in the quarter-final, where his 1/15 crippled Baroda. Unfortunately, his heroics weren’t enough to drag Haryana over the line.
Shahbaz Ahmed – 4 wickets in 5 innings @ ER 8.42
RCB showed plenty of faith in young Shahbaz Ahmed by retaining him for the upcoming season, but the young left-armer’s showing in SMAT 2020/21 left a lot to be desired. The left-arm spinner had no real performances of note in the competition and was in fact only used sparsely by his skipper Anustup Majumdar – twice he ended up bowling just 1 over. His ER of 8.42 was also the worst among Bengal bowlers who sent down a minimum of 5 overs in the season.
Pavan Deshpande – 37 runs in innings @ average 12.33 and ER 105.71
The most surprising retention ahead of the auction, KPL superstar Pavan Deshpande had quite a hideous campaign. The left-hander not only found himself in and out of the team, but he also saw his batting position be alternated between the opening slot and the middle-order. Eventually, neither switch worked and he ended the campaign with a high-score of 21. Worse yet, Deshpande did not get the opportunity to showcase his skills with the ball, with him not delivering a single ball all season.
None of Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, and Navdeep Saini featured in the competition owing to international duty, while Harshal Patel did not play in the tournament owing to injury.