The Tamil Nadu Premier League 2018 is about to start and it should be a matter of pride for the state association that their tournament now attracts national attention. There has been some controversy surrounding the tournament after the BCCI guidelines forbid domestic T20 tournaments from playing outstation players. The Tamil Nadu Cricket Association has challenged that ruling and currently, two outstation players are scheduled to play for each team in the TNPL 2018.
TNPL-3 will be spread over one month starting from July 11 to August 12 during which 32 matches will be played in total. There are three venues which are to be used for TNPL-3 including Chennai, Tirunelveli, and Dindigul.
The bulk of the matches will be played in the smaller centers with a view to grow the base of the game in the state.
There have been a few ownership changes as well as a few name changes ahead of TNPL 3. The Tuti Patriots are now Jones Tuti Patriots, Karaikudi Kaalai is now iDream Karaikudi Kaalai, the Madurai Panthers are now Siechem Madurai Panthers, and the VB Thiruvallar Veerans are now the VB Kanchi Veerans.
TNPL 2017 Result: Finalists
The team dominated the last season thanks to an unbelievable run of form by Washington Sundar where he batted and bowled his team to victory. The likes of Dinesh Karthik added to the strength of the team last year. They won all of their seven group matches to march into the finals and then ended up having an off day when it mattered most.
Things are expected to be a lot more difficult for them this year. Washington Sundar has been injured while playing for India and will likely miss a lot of the TNPL 3. Dinesh Karthik is no longer a part of the squad and has been snapped up by iDream Karaikudi Kaalai.
The Patriots will be hoping that Kaushik Gandhi is able to build on his wonderful season last year and make up for the absence of Washington Sundar. Sheldon Jackson and Salman Nazir have been added as outstation players with Jackson being drafted specifically to provide the team a boost in the batting.
Athisayaraj Davidson was the joint highest wicket-taker for the Patriots and he will be leading the bowling attack once again. The addition of Sai Kishore and R Sathish from the Super Gillies will add a lot of incisiveness to their bowling attack.
Strengths: Have managed to keep the core of the side even though they have lost a couple of big-name players
Weaknesses: Washington Sundar carried the team on his shoulders last year and without him, the Patriots will suddenly find the going a lot tougher
Our Prediction: Finalists
TNPL 2017 Result: Winners
The defending champions of the TNPL made the biggest acquisition of the draft by picking Vijay Shankar into their side. The all-rounder would have benefitted immensely from his international experience and did pretty well at the IPL as well.
He is currently out of the Indian team and should be available for all of the matches in the TNPL 3. We have a feeling that Vijay Shankar could do something similar to what Washington Sundar did last season and just blow everyone away.
The team has lost some of its stalwarts from last season, though. Antony Dhas and Thalaivan Sargunam played a major role to prop up the Super Gillies batting but neither of them will be a part of the squad this time around.
Sai Kishore, who picked 17 wickets for the team last season, has moved to arch rivals Jones Tuti Patriots for this season, as has R Sathish.
M Ashwin is another very useful pick, although, his season last year was nowhere as effective as everyone expected it to be. With players like U Sasidev, K Gopinath, and R Alexander, though, the Chepauk Super Gillies cannot be counted out.
We think a lot of their season will depend on the firm of Vijay Shankar because he is the one player that has the ability to make up for all of their shortcomings.
Strengths: Have picked up possibly the best player in the draft in the shape of Vijay Shankar
Weaknesses: Some big changes in their squad will force the team to find a new combination quickly
Our Prediction: Winners
TNPL 2017 Result: 4th
The LYCA Kovai Kings had an ordinary season last year. They were able to win just three matches and ended up finishing fourth on the table. This allowed them to reach the knockout stage of the tournament but they were never really in the same class as the Patriots or the Super Gillies.
This year, the team seems to have made some smart choices in the auction. They have acquired Antony Dhas from the Super Gillies who will help strengthen the batting alongside Abhinav Mukund. While Mukund has never really been considered as a massive talent in T20 cricket at the national level, the TNPL might just be the perfect kind of platform for him to dominate.
In T Natrajan, the Kovai Kings have a quality bowler on the fringes of national selection. His ability to bowl pinpoint Yorkers impressed everyone in the IPL last season and he will be confident of putting in some solid performances this season.
Some other quality domestic performers like Shahrukh Khan, Suresh Babu, and R Mithun should help the Kovai Kings be much more competitive this year. The problem for them is that the other teams have picked wisely as well and improved the squad as well.
Strengths: Have managed to add a few quality players to their squad including some with Indian team credentials to their name
Weaknesses: The batting depth looks shallow and the bowling needs T Natrajan to fire at all costs
Our Prediction: 6th
TNPL 2017 Result: Last
The newly christened Siechem Madurai Panthers will be hoping that the new name and change in ownership brings a change of luck with it. The team finished dead last in the previous edition of the TNPL and could not even register one win from all of its matches.
The prospects of the team do not appear to be much better this year either. The team is lacking an international superstar or a pedigree player to rally around like the more fancied teams do. The team also does not have the winning culture in its squad to be able to bank on the core from last year to provide it with stability.
Still, there are some decent domestic performers in the squad. Arun Karthik had a good season with the bat last year and will probably bat up the order for the Madurai Panthers this year. Similarly, T Sargunam was very good for the Super Gillies last year and will be one of the players to watch out for with the bat for the Panthers.
Rahil Shah, Kousik J, and Nathan SP are all good players with plenty of experience at the domestic level including at the TNPL. They are not the kind of names that will be familiar to casual cricket watchers but could very well be the players that make or break the season for the Madurai Panthers this year.
The Siechem Madurai Panthers will need all of its players to pitch in and possibly perform above expectations to be able to move up from the bottom of the table. If you are supporting Madurai then we suggest you start praying.
Strengths: Have managed to acquire a few proven domestic performers
Weaknesses: Lack of ‘big name’ players, weak bowling attack
Our Prediction: Last (8th)
TNPL 2017 Result: 7th
A horror season in the TNPL last year saw the Trichy Warriors register just one win in the entire tournament. That would usually mean a complete change in personnel but that is not the case here. The Trichy Warriors have chosen to persist with their two highest scorers in Baba Inderjith and Bharath Shankar.
The batting will also receive a big boost thanks to the presence of Murali Vijay before he departs for international duty later during the TNPL. These three players form a very competent core of batting that should help the Trichy Warriors be competitive. Murali Vijay, in particular, has been getting pigeonholed as a test match specialist of late and could use this opportunity to showcase the kind of form that made him an IPL sensation a few years back.
There are some other quality players in the side as well. Aswin Crist is a very good bowler, Srinath Arvind has played for India and also has IPL experience to bank upon, while Suresh Kumar and K Vignesh are solid dependable domestic players that will help balance the team out.
The Trichy Warriors suffered last year because their faith in Baba Inderjith turned out to be misplaced. They have chosen to once again build their team around him and will be hoping for a better result this time around.
Strengths: A good solid core of batsmen, a couple of very good bowlers
Weaknesses: Murali Vijay will leave the tournament mid-way, lack of quality domestic talent to provide depth
Our Prediction: 7th
TNPL 2017 Result: 5th
The VB Thiruvallur Veerans from last year are now the VB Kanchi Veerans, a name change made probably to change the fortunes of the team around and bring it some good luck. We have some news for the owners of the team, though. Had they spent as much time on planning the squad and picked the team keeping the cricketing strengths of the players in mind then they would have had a better chance of success.
Like last year, the team is being built around Baba Aparajith. He scored 277 runs in the last season and was the highest scorer for his side but it was still not enough to overcome some of the stronger sides in this competition.
This year the team owners are basically banking on Aparajith to carry the entire team singlehandedly once again. A few decent players like Aushik Srinivas, Vishal Vaidhya, and Silambarasan are in the squad, but none of them are the kinds to put any fear in the opposition ranks.
The Veerans are without their highest wicket-taker from last year, their second highest scorer is also no longer a part of the squad, and it is clear that a lot of rebuilding has to be done in the team ahead of this season.
Swapnil Singh and Sandeep Warrior are the two outstation players for the team in this season and they will be required to play a major role in lifting the side.
Strengths: Baba Aparajith is a class player considered among the most talented young players going around
Weaknesses: Little support for Baba Aparajith, bowling is very weak
Our Prediction: 5th
TNPL 2017 Result: 6th
The Dindigul Dragons will have one of the biggest names in Indian cricket to lead them for the first few weeks of the competition. Having Ravichandran Ashwin around is a huge plus not only for what he brings to the park with his bowling but also because of captaincy. Ashwin captained the Kings XI side in the IPL this year and was pretty impressive in using his resources to the maximum.
We expect to see the same in TNPL 3 from him. Also, at this level of cricket, Ravichandran Ashwin can be counted as a genuine all-rounder capable of contributing with both the bat and ball.
The Dindigul Dragons have picked G Hanuma Vihari and Arpit Vasavada as their outstation players for this season. Vihari has played IPL for multiple seasons and even though he has fallen a little out of favor over the last season, his batting credentials are very solid.
Against the kind of bowling that he will face in the TNPL, Vihari could be a major threat.
The Dindigul Dragons also have some good domestic talent in the form of N Jagadeeshan, Kaushik J, M Silambarasam, and R Rohit. The team is going to bank on R Shwin to motivate the team and set it on a winning path before he departs for international duty.
Strengths: Ravichandran Ashwin brings world-class talent and leadership to the team
Weaknesses: Bowling is thin, Ashwin will leave for international duty and that void will be difficult to fill
Our Prediction: 4th
TNPL 2017 Result: 4th
Another team with some excellent players in its squad, at least on paper is Karaikudi Kaalai. The team has Dinesh Karthik on its roster and he is currently one of the first choice players in the Indian national setup. Unfortunately for Kaalai, Dinesh Karthik will be away for international duty and may not be a part of the tournament at all.
S Aniruddha will provide an aggressive batting option at the top of the order. He played a few decisive innings in the last edition of the TNPL and will want to use this medium as the launchpad for his return to national significance.
Yo Mahesh will be key with the ball alongside, M Shajahan, R Rajkumar, and others. One of the most interesting players to watch will be Unmukt Chand who has been signed for the team as an outstation player.
Chand has gone from being the next big thing in Indian cricket to being discarded from the IPL squad and struggling to find any significance in Indian cricket. We think he is an immensely talented individual who should be able to really make a mark at this level of cricket.
Chand will be another very aggressive batting option at the top of the order providing Kallai with some decent depth to fall back upon.
Strengths: Strong batting, good depth in the squad
Weaknesses: Bowling is weak, Dinesh Karthik may not see any action at all because of international duty
Our Prediction: 3rd