From TNPL to IPL: The pitch only gets greener
This league has groomed them into the players that IPL requires.
When the Indian Premier League began in 2008, the franchises, as well as the state associations, had little idea of what’s in store. Which is why, the first season saw most squads filled with local state talents apart from the international stars. Chennai Super Kings was no different. They had 10 of the 12 Tamil Nadu players who took part in the inaugural edition.
As years went by, the franchises began scouting and had a better understanding of the format and that number shrunk. In 2015, there were just five Tamil Nadu players in the IPL. Cut to 2022, the number has gone up to 14, and almost everyone in the state’s cricketing fraternity points in one direction for the reason— Tamil Nadu Premier League.
Started in 2016, the TNPL was former BCCI and Tamil Nadu Cricket Association president N Srinivasan’s brainchild. The tournament took T20 cricket to districts, providing the players, from across the state, a platform to showcase their talent. It also had a vital role in the state becoming the white-ball juggernaut they have in the last few years.
Crediting the state T20 league for the rise of Tamil Nadu players in IPL, TNCA secretary RS Ramasaamy said that the state team has become a force to reckon in white-ball because of the TNPL. “When our former president N Srinivasan brought in the idea of TNPL, he said that we’ll know the difference soon and that it will help a lot of players from the districts,” Ramasaamy says.
This league has groomed them into the players that IPL requires. “The league has all the factors of the IPL, of course on a smaller scale. Several boys from the districts get to play under such high-pressure situations and they have become fearless cricketers,” he adds.
M Ashwin, who has been a part of the IPL for several years and was picked by Mumbai Indians in this year’s auction, concurs. “The timeline of Tamil Nadu becoming a powerhouse in white-ball cricket since the inception of TNPL is no coincidence,” says the leg-spinner, who has played for four teams, under the captaincy of MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli, Zaheer Khan and KL Rahul, in the IPL so far.
“It (TNPL) is a very well organised tournament. We feel very important there when the big names come and commentate; we have the opportunity to interact with them. The quality of cricket is very good, we got to play under lights, and understand the culture of franchise-based tournaments. This helps players when we go into the IPL,” he said adding that there are several intrinsic nuances that the players gain from the tournament.
In the recent auction, it was not just the big names like R Ashwin and Dinesh Karthik who got the nod. From 19-year-old B Sai Sudarshan to 26-year-old Sanjay Yadav, the pool has only widened.
Ashwin who's delighted to be a part of the five-time champions Mumbai Indians squad and is keen to take up more responsibilities in the coming season, said that it was heartening to see Sudarshan get selected in IPL after a breakout season with TNPL and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
“Tamil Nadu players have a very good camaraderie and we enjoy each other’s success. The exposure and visibility from TNPL were crucial in the 14 players getting picked as scouts will come and watch the match, there’s live telecast too. I think this number show grow over the years,” he added.
Ramasaamy, too, is confident that the number of Tamil Nadu players in IPL will only go up every year from hereon. Going by what’s happened in the last few years, it is only fair to say that the state is likely to dominate the league more in the future.