Tamil Nadu Premier League: Where uncut diamonds are unearthed
It is said that the core strength of a nation lies in its towns and villages, and a growing and fast developing India is dotted and replete with such a backdrop. It is no different when it comes to the growth of its national cricket team, lately enjoying pole position in almost all formats.
Put in that perspective, it is ever so refreshing and enervating to witness starry eyed teens from obscure towns and sleepy hamlets of Tamil Nadu, carrying hopes and dreams in their eyes to emulate their heroes. Their undying enthusiasm to carve a fruitful career and a lifestyle makeover through a disciplined display of their cricketing skill sets could not have asked for a better platform than the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL).
To channelise and harness it by giving proper direction has been TNPL's chief USP. Its advent, a virtual shadow of the now famous IPL, with its accompanying glitz and razzmatazz, has enabled hidden talents to be discovered with its microscopic vision from TN's hinterlands, crying and seeking for its attention.
What the IPL accomplished for the cricketing world as a forerunner and a pathfinder in terms of highlighting and fast tracking potential youngsters to the world stage, TNPL, by its successful launch in 2016, has opened up new horizons for skilled cricketers in the Indian domestic cricket firmament. It has provided the necessary impetus and sustenance to showcase TN's wide array of skilled cricketers.
This franchise based cricket tournament, catering and confining to Tamil Nadu cricketers at present, consists of eight teams, owned by successful corporate honchos.
Its success can be ascribed as a brain child of N.Srinivasan, ex-Board President and a successful business tycoon, with an eye for vision and invention. Above all else, it is his big heart and generosity of spirit that have opened up new vistas for the unsung heroes of the state.
Not all who don the TNPL jersey can play for the country and enjoy the limelight and its added paraphernalia, but to accord opportunities to endeavour and try ever so virtuously is its sole objective. Like everything else, the cream will rise to the top, but not without a grim fight and a sore testing ground.
Designed in the first place to fill the void caused by CSK's suspension from the IPL for its 9th and 10th editions, TNPL 2 is set to take off, once again in an attempt to nurture and breed Tamil Nadu's future stars, and to provide a reservoir of talent to pick its teams from.
It has enabled the talent hunters to cast their net far and wide to unearth uncut diamonds, like we have already witnessed from the earlier edition. T. Natarajan, a left arm pacer, hailing from a tiny impoverished village near Salem; Washington Sundar from Chennai and a few others like Anthony Dhas from a poor community, not to mention N. Jagadeesan, a wicket keeping all-rounder, are but a few names from the top of my head.
TNPL accords immense opportunities to unheralded youngsters and the IPL scouts, I am sure, will have their eagle eyes sharpened to spot and pick them to bolster various franchises in the years to come. Such a feature was already noticed with Natarajan winning a hefty contract with the Kings XI Punjab, and Washington Sundar splendidly filling in for Ashwin, donning the RPS colours in the just concluded IPL 10.
Given all the matches are beamed live to the world through its satellite networks, the coruscating talent is bound to be noticed and tapped. The natural offshoot of the whole exercise is that successful youngsters get confident and are battle ready for the challenges ahead as a sense of stage fright evaporates ever so rapidly and the boys focus with tunnel vision, to improve and progress in their careers.
If the 2016 edition is anything to go by, with respect to the mass acclaim and television viewership, it was an instantaneous success. Tamil Nadu is already well creased with its well oiled competitive league structure, and, combined with its deep-set cultural roots in this most cerebral game, is a magic potion that players can't have enough of. Viewed in that context, TN and its well-housed stable of cricketers is bound to reckon the advent of TNPL as a watershed moment in the years to come.
The immediate success of TNPL can be gauged by the glorious march of the Tamil Nadu senior side which went on to win the Vijay Hazare and Deodhar Trophy, twin titles of supremacy in the domestic cricket calendar of the BCCI in 2016-17. It also reached the semis of the Ranji Trophy, where seasoned stalwarts and willing greenhorns pulled their weight together in unison to enjoy the successful ride.
TNPL, it must be said, may not be a panacea for all that plagues cricket and cricketers in the longer formats, but this frenetic and condensed version, with its innate complexities and dynamics, is bound to inject a head up and chin up approach to its youngsters as a veritable "God Send" exposure. Once shy and rural youngsters get their podium to express and showcase their worth, it is bound to spiral their progress as well-rounded gents.
That aside, TNCA has to be applauded no end for its masterstroke, in that it ventured and factored in deep down south towns like Tirunelveli and Dindugal to host plenty of the matches, which enabled ample and overwhelming crowd participation.
The die was cast and much like an albatross, the talent search wing was massively stretched. The same is suitably reflected in scores of youngsters from remote towns being already drafted into the playing sheets of various franchises, which in itself is a good augury.
The day is not far when the playing sheet of the senior side of TN consists of several district stars. And, a certain Venkatramana, off-spinner from Madurai, who played a stellar role in TN's title triumph in the Ranji Trophy in 1988 in his then maiden season, won't feel too lonesome as the solitary player from the Districts to have worn the national colors, as rustic and keen-as-mustard players from far-flung corners are unearthed and groomed and go on to play for India, successfully at that.