The group stage fixtures of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy concluded last week and now the attention is firmly on the business end of the competition with the knockout stage starting from Tuesday. Defending champions Karnataka will look to once again take the trophy home, but they need to fight it out with seven other teams for the ultimate glory.
This year's quarter-finalists are Karnataka, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Baroda, Bihar, and Rajasthan.
Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had made it to the finals of the 2019-20 edition and the former emerged triumphant by the slightest of margins -- one run. For the 2020-21 edition, all the knockouts will be played at the Motera Stadium, Ahmedabad.
All the eight teams had reached Ahmedabad on January 20, and the teams underwent mandatory COVID-19 tests upon reaching the city. Players and match-officials also underwent a quarantine period, and now having fulfilled the formalities, every team is itching to get onto the park and give it their best in the home stretch.
While the quarter-finals will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday, the semi-finals are scheduled for Friday and the final of the tournament will be played on Sunday.
Bihar topped the Plate group by registering wins in all their five matches. Haryana, Baroda, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Tamil Nadu also topped their respective groups, while Karnataka finished at second place in Group A.
On Tuesday, Karnataka and Punjab will start the quarter-finals, and later in the day, Tamil Nadu will clash against Himachal Pradesh. The remaining two quarter-finals between Haryana-Baroda and Bihari-Rajasthan will take place on Wednesday.
The T20 tournament had started on January 10, and the group stages gave many players a chance to show their skills. Kerela's Mohammed Azharuddeen lit up the tournament in the match against Mumbai as he went on to play a knock of 137 runs off just 54 balls with the help of 9 boundaries and 11 sixes.
Sreesanth also made a return to competitive cricket after a hiatus of almost eight years. The pacer represented Kerela and he was seen bowling with his trademark aggression.
The coronavirus pandemic had made the situation slightly more complex this time going into the tournament as players needed to focus not only on their games, but also on bio-bubble protocols and safety regulations. But the T20 tournament proved as a perfect opportunity for the young and fringe players to impress the national selectors with an eye on the 2021 T20 World Cup.
The BCCI has already clarified that if and when the Ranji Trophy or Vijay Hazare Trophy does go ahead, the same protocols will be in place which were utilised for Syed Mushtaq. So it is safe to say, that this tournament has already made the path for other domestic competitions a little easy.
( With inputs from ANI )
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