With the next IPL auction likely to take place early next year, talent scouts across various franchises would be closely looking at the domestic leagues in search of the next Hardik Pandya or Rahul Tripathi. From the Tamil Nadu Premier League last season, we saw T Natarajan having his big payday, when he was picked up by Kings XI Punjab for INR 3 Crore (US $ 450,000), apart from R Sanjay Yadav, who was among Kolkata Knight Riders' picks. Washington Sundar was added as a replacement for R Ashwin by the Rising Pune Supergiant, while wicketkeeper-batsman N Jagadeesan was in line to replace the injured KL Rahul for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
We take a look at some stand-out stars from TNPL 2017 who could be targeted by the IPL franchises next season.
The potential multi-millionaires
Team: Albert Tuti Patriots
Role: Allrounder - Opening batsman and right-arm offspinner
Skills: Wicket-taking option in the Powerplay and hard-hitting opening batsman
TNPL 2017 stats (9 innings): 459 runs at 76.5; strike-rate of 154.54 and 15 wickets at 12.73; economy rate of 6.16
The unanimous choice for the Player of the Tournament, Washington Sundar held the rare distinction of leading both the batting and bowling charts at one point towards the end of TNPL 2017. He already showed what he could do with the ball during IPL 2017. During this edition of the TNPL, he displayed his batting prowess with consistent scores throughout the tournament, scoring a hundred and smashing the fastest fifty in the tournament's history, off just 15 balls.
Washington finished the tournament as the leading run-getter, with 459 runs at an average of 76.5 and a strike-rate of 154.54. With the ball, he took 15 wickets at an economy rate of 6.16. With Indian allrounders in such high demand, Washington has staked his claim to be one of the top choices at the auction next year.
Team: Chepauk Super Gillies
Role: Left-arm orthodox bowler
Skills: Economical bowler with accurate line and length; wicket-taking option with the new ball
TNPL 2017 stats (10 innings): 17 wickets at 13.41; economy rate of 5.70
One of the most consistent players in the TNPL, Sai Kishore topped the wickets charts this edition. He is the only bowler to be among the top five wicket-takers in both seasons so far. Kishore idolises R Ashwin; he also wears jersey number 99. Like Ashwin, Kishore has proven to be a genuine wicket-taking option with the new ball, at a miserly economy rate.
In the 2016 edition of the TNPL, Kishore took 12 wickets at an economy rate of 5.64 runs per over from nine innings, and has carried on his form through this season too. Left-arm spinners have always been in demand in the shortest format of the game, making Kishore a vital prospect for teams in the next IPL. Kishore has already made his Tamil Nadu debut earlier this year, finishing as the second-highest wicket-taker in the Deodhar Trophy.
The other big contenders
Team: VB Thiruvallur Veerans
Role: Allrounder - Middle-order Batsmen and right-arm offspinner
Skill: Experienced, consistent run-getter
TNPL 2017 stats (7 innings): 277 runs at 46.16; strike-rate of 150.54
Baba Aparajith has previously been picked by Chennai Super Kings and Rising Pune Supergiant. A consistent performer in the TNPL who has been among the top five run-getters in both editions so far, Aparajith has been unable to carry his form while playing for his state side Tamil Nadu during domestic tournaments.
Team: Karaikudi Kaalai
Role: Middle-order batsman
Skill: Hitting ability
TNPL 2017 stats (8 innings): 209 runs at 41.80; strike-rate of 145.13
Shajahan is among the cleanest strikers of the ball in the TNPL, with the ability to hit sixes from the outset, a skill in high demand in T20s. Shajahan scored 17 sixes, the second most in the tournament, and managed to hit a six in every innings he batted.
Team: Lyca Kovai Kings
Role: Middle-order batsman and Right-arm offspinner
Skill: Can play anchor as well as clear the boundary easily
TNPL 2017 stats (5 innings): 125 runs at 31.25; strike-rate of 137.36
Akshay Srinivasan may not have outstanding numbers, but has played some crucial knocks under pressure to take his team to victory. Historically, the need for a good uncapped middle-order batsman has been vital towards maintaining team balance in the IPL. Akshay fits the bill perfectly.
Underdogs with an outside chance
While not as consistent or prolific as those in the first two categories, there were a few others who lit up the tournament with exceptional individual performances. Rohith Ravikumar smashed the tournament's fastest hundred in a chase for Kovai Kings, Antony Dhas played multiple cameos in the middle order, while Mohan Prasath and R Alexander impressed with their left-arm spin.
M Shajahan's age was wrongly mentioned as 33 earlier, and has been corrected based on the information in the Karaikudi Kaalai team's official website.